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15 July 2024

UAE phone alert: Dh30 SMS trap in play

By Majorie van Leijen

"All I wanted to do is a simple IQ test. Now I am subscribed to a service I did not ask for," says a perplexed S. Kumar.

The Indian Etisalat subscriber felt tempted when an IQ test online caught his eye.

A couple of clicks later, the level of his IQ could be revealed, if he would send 33 to either one of the numbers presented; one for du and one for etisalat subscribers.

As Kumar followed instructions, he quickly received an SMS in Arabic, meaning: thank you for subscribing to service 33. To stop this service, send STOP33 to 4400.

"Here I got suspicious. I did not agree to subscribe to any service. I just wanted to know the results of the IQ test," says Kumar.

His frustration rose when the link he was sent to find the test results did not appear to work. Without test results and being subscribed to an unfamiliar service, he decided to opt out of the service.

It was too late. No matter what he sent to the service provider identified as SAM Media, he did not stop receiving the messages offering to opt out.

When he called the etisalat customer service, he was told that for every SMS he had sent to the number, he had been charged Dh30. And because the service had not started yet, he could not opt out at this point.

“This service is a “fun IQ Test” service that offers a brief test plus related content.

After taking the test, in order to get the result and related content the user needs to enter their mobile number (MSISDN) and then send an SMS with keyword 33 to 6029.

This subscription service can ONLY be initiated from the user’s mobile phone,” explains Alexis Bartelds, Managing Director of Sam Media in a statement to Emirates 24|7.

Services obtained via mobile phone are called Premium Rate Services, characterised by the shared revenue of service provider as well as the provider of the mobile network, which allows and sets the standards for the service to be rendered to its customers.

Although etisalat has not commented on the case, du let know that it does have an agreement with Sam Media and the service is a genuine service, rendered according to its requirements that it clearly mentions the services that the customer subscribes to.

However, billing is the responsibility of the service provider, and this provider may charge for its service what they want to charge according to regulations set by the Telecommunication Regulation Authority (TRA).

Kumar, who believes that Dh30 is not a reasonable fare for stopping a service he did not want in the first place, says, “I never subscribed. I was not asked if I wanted to subscribe. The message to send SMS to find out the results was misleading as I do not recall agreeing to any subscription,” emphasising that he was not informed about the subscription when he send the SMS.

Sam Media explains that it provides clear information on the nature of the service and pricing via terms shown on the quiz page.

“As such, all users should be fully aware as to nature of the service/content, the cost thereof, the billing frequency and how to unsubscribe from the service before they commit to subscribing,” says Alexis. 


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