Fee-paying services more easily identifiable in telephone bills

Consumers now have better possibilities of monitoring their purchases and orders made by a mobile phone and checking that they have been billed correctly. After new legislation entered into force in June, calls and text messages subject to additional charges must be more clearly itemised.

A mobile phone has for some time been a method of payment similar to a credit card, which can be used to order and pay for such items as tickets for public transport and purchases in a restaurant. However, monitoring your purchases and checking the bill for possible errors has been considerably more difficult in case of a telephone bill than a credit card bill. Consumers have had to ask separately for a detailed itemisation of their telephone bills from the operator, and a fee may have been charged for such itemisations. Furthermore, the itemisations have not always made it possible for the consumers to establish what kind of services the amounts are paid for and who the service providers behind them are.

The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman has for some time been calling for a possibility for consumers to check their bills at no extra charge. Under the new provisions that entered into force in the beginning of June, operators must provide free of charge a bill that itemises the prices of services subject to an additional charge, the date and time they were ordered and the name and telephone number of the service provider receiving the payment.

An exception is made for services that are within the scope of privacy protection, including various advisory and counselling lines. For these services, only the payment amount, date and time are detailed, but not the recipient.

The consumer may not recognize some of the service provider names shown in the bill and is thus unable to find out what services or products he or she is billed for. In these circumstances, the consumer can look up the company’s details in a database maintained by Suomen Numerot Numpac Oy, a service owned by operators that are active in Finland.

Compliance with the provisions on bill itemisation is supervised by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority.