London, July 13 : Majority of the websites that sell ringtones or mobile phones are conning children and teenagers by providing unclear information about the charges of their services, says a new probe by the European commission.
Over 90 percent of websites make use of various tactics to lure users that include signing up for subscriptions when they seem to download one-off tunes and free offers to enrol them for long-term paid contracts, the study found. In order to curb such exploitation of young mobile phone users, Brussels is all set to launch inquiries into dozens of British ringtone websites and many others across Europe.
"Some children as young as five have a phone and young people often see ringtones as a fashion statement. Children are particularly vulnerable consumers and our initial investigation into the mobile services market shows a high number of rogue traders ready to cash in on this," Times Online quoted Meglena Kuneva, commissioner for consumer protection, as saying.
The probe has highlighted misleading practices common to the 550million pounds European ringtones market.
What happens usually is that a large number of consumers believe they are buying a single ringtone, but in reality they are being charged to a 1.50 pounds tune every day or for a weekly subscription.
They also discovered that the word "free" might be a tricky aspect as it can be used to offer an unpaid tune while luring consumers into longer-term paid contracts.
These results of EU investigation will now be used by national regulators to force many changes in the industry.