Separately charged services

I have received an invoice from a phone sex company that wants payment for calls they claim I made to a regular geographic number, such as 040 or 08 numbers. Do I have to pay the invoice?

The Ethical Council for Premium rate services (ERB) has been tasked with developing and maintaining ethical rules for the content of information provided on paid services and their marketing. As of January 1, 2022, this falls within the responsibility of Telekområdgivarna.

Paid services refer to services accessed with prefixes 0900, 0939, 0944, and 099, as well as mobile paid services that use short codes for purchasing goods and services. So-called separately charged services, which are invoiced directly by a company instead of through a telephone bill and do not use the aforementioned prefixes, are completely outside of Telekområdgivarna's scope. However, we would like to try to provide information on what applies to this type of service and hope it can be of some guidance.

What primarily differentiates separately charged services from paid services is that there is no underlying agreement that regulates the subscriber's payment obligation. For paid services that are charged on the telephone bill, the subscriber has taken on the responsibility to cover all costs associated with telephony from the relevant subscription, including premium rate services. With separately charged services, this contractual link does not exist. If someone calls a service of this kind on a regular regional telephone number, a cost has arisen on the regular telephone bill for a telephone call, and the company in question has deemed that there is some form of agreement for the sale of the service in connection with the phone call.

The first part is quite simple, of course, it is the subscriber's obligation to pay for what the phone calls have cost, but this cost is only for a regular call, for example, to Malmö, prefix 040, and in this context, it is often not particularly burdensome. The second part is much more questionable. It should be remembered that if a creditor, i.e., the specified company, claims that there is a debt based on a valid agreement, it is also the creditor's obligation to be able to prove this. It is thus the companies that should prove that the alleged agreement has been entered into by the person who appears as the recipient of the invoice. This person should, of course, be of legal age. It is not the invoice recipient's responsibility to prove that they did not actually enter into the agreement.

If a company presents some sort of technical evidence that the phone call was made at a certain time, this in itself does not constitute proof that it was the invoice recipient who made the call. The same reasoning, of course, applies if someone enters a personal identification number. A personal identification number, any of them, can be obtained without any problem and proves nothing.

The Swedish Consumer Agency advocates disputing the invoice in a brief letter, and of course, this is something that can be done. In that case, one should be brief and just note that they dispute the invoice on legal grounds and request that the company submit evidence that it was the invoice recipient who entered into the relevant agreement.

In summary, separately charged services are not premium rate services of the type that a subscriber is responsible for. They are simply a type of service sold by phone, and regular rules for entering into agreements apply.