My Vodafone bill this month listed some text “info” payments from 5655 – $6.08 a week for several weeks. I had no idea what it referred to so rang Vodafone to ask. They said it was a service called MobileFun, which I had never heard of. I wasn’t the only person questioning it apparently and there seemed to be no problem taking the amounts off my bill.
I rang the 0800 number listed for MobileFun to enquire how my account had been billed as I have no record of agreeing to it. The call centre in South Sydney said MobileFun was run by a New Zealand company called Heiss investments. They could not answer how my account had been authorised, and said someone would ring me to discuss. I haven’t heard from anyone.
I looked up Heiss Investments. It has an office registered at Level 20 ASB Tower in downtown Auckland. This is an advertised address for virtual offices. The sole director of the Company is Photis Photiou, who lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.
I looked back in my accounts and found another set of texts from 2434, which had also billed me through my Vodafone account. Vodafone told me this service was called Wordgame. Wordgame took me to another company, Free Msg Limited, represented by Sanjay Kumar and registered at Oswin Griffiths – dfk Limited, Level 4, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland , New Zealand. The sole director (surprise, surprise) is also Photis Photiou, 6 Kolokotroni Street, Nicosia.
This is the address of the office of Ph Photiou and Associates Law Office, which specialises in setting up shelf companies in Cyprus and other well-known tax shelters such as Belize and British Virgin Islands.
I have now discovered that this practice has been going on for years. Like many others on this post I wondered why Vodafone was billing me on behalf of Photis Photiou. He’s obviously clipping my ticket; but so is Vodafone. I was advised by a Vodafone customer representative:
With all our 3rd party txt messaging services Vodafone has a strict rule when people opt in for a service. The procedure for a customer they must first give their mobile phone number to the service and await a txt message from the service containing their temporary password which they then put into the system in turn subscribing that person to the service.
I’ve never done that. How does Vodafone check? As far as I am concerned I have been billed by Vodafone for a service I never asked for, acknowledged or received.
I think Vodafone should give Photis a ring and check him out. I wonder what other numbers he’s got up his sleeve. Vodafone can’t be that hard up for cash that they have to let this go on.