New and stricter rules in Belgium for sms and telephone subscription based gaming services

The Belgian Council of Ministers approved stricter rules for subscription based in app gaming and SMS services last month. Many of the new rules actually existed already, but the minister hopes with this update finally to get rid of the many abuses in the sector. The rules still have to be approved by the parliament.

According to Minister of Digital Agenda and Telecom Alexander De Croo, no fewer than 644 complaints were received by the Ombudsman for Telecom in connection with all kinds of mobile commerce and premium SMS services last year. In the past, most complaints were about ringtones suppliers who misleadly encouraged subscribers to unsuspecting users. Nowadays, these practices still exist, but they are often offered in all kinds of apps and payment is made in other ways than before, allowing malicious providers to escape the existing rules.

Not entirely new rules, but better and improved framework

The new rules are actually not all that new. They are very similar to the code that was introduced in 2009 and in 2011, but the new version is more extensive and stricter. In the past, the existing rules were based on voluntary sector codes, whereas now it is no longer a matter of non-binding agreements, but a binding legal text.

We summarize the new rules below. Some of them not only target the providers, but also the telecom operators involved. The latter should also prevent players who are active from abroad or recruit customers for their services more quickly for a few weeks.

The rules summarized

  • Advertising for paying services must state the cost price, including the highest rate.
  • The customer must send an SMS to the payment number himself for a service to start.
  • You can unsubscribe by texting ‘STOP’ to the number.
  • The payment service must have a customer service that can be reached quickly by e-mail, telephone or digitally.
  • The telecom operator can also receive the complaint.
  • Complaints must be dealt with within five working days, otherwise the complaint will be well-founded.
  • If the complaint is well-founded, the SMS service must reimburse the costs within five working days or on the next invoice. If this does not happen, the operators will assume the costs (temporarily).
  • Operators must immediately block the payment numbers and stop payment transfers if there is a violation.

Questions about phone games, SMS services or advertising law and consumer protection in general?

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