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UK: users charged by phone app malware

Phone users in Britain were charged hundreds of pounds without their consent after the apps they clicked on contained malware.

Three British companies were fined STG330,000 ($A602,354.66) after phone-paid services regulator PhonepayPlus found Android phone apps that were used to promote and access Circle Marketing, Cloudspace and Syncronized’s premium rate services contained malware.

The apps promoted services with names such as Fun Sexy Girls and Glam Pleasures.

Once the app was installed, phone owners inadvertently initiated a subscription by clicking anywhere on the screen.

The app suppressed premium rate text messages, meaning those whose phones contained the malware did not know they were being charged.

Other consumers found themselves caught up in the scam via a WAP (wireless application protocol) link sent to their mobile phone after their details had been obtained from marketing lists.

A number of consumers reported receiving explicit text messages, and told PhonepayPlus they were “extremely upset” by the “vile messages”.

One complainant reported being billed STG231, another said their daughter was charged STG150 more than usual over a three-month period.

Another said that they had been receiving the explicit text messages for over two years before approaching PhonepayPlus.

All three companies were unable to show they had obtained consumers’ consent to be charged.

PhonepayPlus said some consumers were charged between STG1.50 and STG4.50 a week and had reported bills amounting to hundreds of pounds.

The regulator said it had investigated the companies following reports from antivirus and internet security company Kaspersky Lab.

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