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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 17:24 GMT
Hefty fine for X-rated spam scam
Hand on keyboard
One user ended up with a 200 phone bill
A US-based firm has landed a hefty fine for sending XXX junk e-mails to thousands in the UK.

The unsolicited messages came with a sexually explicit attachment. When opened, users thought a "click me" button would close it.

Instead it led them to a site accessed through a premium rate phone number.

The UK's premium rate watchdog, Icstis, had more than 1,000 complaints about the e-mails and said the company breached a number of regulations.

Users were charged 1.50, but continued to be billed even if they went to another website. The call only disconnected after users logged off net.

Many unsuspecting computer users faced huge telephone bills, including one who was left with a bill of 200.

Serious violations

The 75,000 fine equals the largest ever handed out by Icstis, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services.

The last time it issued such a big fine was in 2002.

Among the several regulations New York-based BW Telecom violated, was the failure to take steps to prevent children from accessing the website and its services.

"The sending of the e-mails appeared to be entirely inappropriate as they were sent on an unsolicited basis to random e-mail addresses with no apparent attempt made to prevent them from being sent to children," the Icstis adjudication said.

The ruling added that people who received the e-mails were deceived because the "X" button which usually closes windows in fact closed a window which set out terms and conditions.

This meant users clicked on a button which dialled up the expensive number instead, without them realising.

BW Telecom, who owned the premium rate lines operating in Europe, also failed to tell users information about the cost of the service per minute, which they are required to do in a separate box.

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