The European announcement comes 1 week after the approval of a settlement by a judge in Cook County Chancery Court in Chicago of a series of class-action lawsuits against mBlox, 2WayTraffic, Dada.net, UPOC, Playphone, etc. that alleged unauthorized sales and billing of mobile content. Same scam, different continent. The deal struck between the plaintiffs and defendants entitles each claimant to a $10 refund from a settlement fund capped at $63mil... now that's more like it.
The really good news is that based on rhetoric from European consumer advocates and the references within the Chicago settlement, it's clear that vigilance over this unsavory sector of our industry is elevated, and that more investigations, suits, settlements and fines are imminent. It can't happen soon enough. Companies involved with these tactics have seriously harmed the perception of mobile entertainment products in the minds of many consumers, and I'll go as far to say that they meaningfully contributed to the delay of broader adoption of mobile content in the pre-iPhone era. They've also hoodwinked other stakeholders in the ecosystem, notably content owners. These distributors regularly use premium entertainment products as a lure to create subscriber revenue streams that primarily inure to their own benefit. When I was on the content side I never once saw meaningful revenue from these distributors despite often having my publishers' content prominently featured.
Just to be clear, this isn't the first time that these distributors have been the subject of regulatory, media or legal scrutiny. Frustration with these tactics reached a boiling point in the UK in mid-2005 as memorialized in this Daily Mail article... which eventually led to some firms making disclosure and cancellation protocol changes. But clearly the punitive stick brought to bear wasn't big enough to put a stop to this bait and switch crap altogether. Hopefully this next round will be and these practices, that have been shamefully tolerated within the industry for the last 10 years, will be brought to their inevitable end sooner than later.