Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pupils set for 'ringtone lessons'

Mobile phone
Pupils will be asked to devise business plans for their own phone-paid services

Children in England and Wales are to be given lessons in how to avoid scams and hidden charges when downloading mobile phone ringtones.

Industry watchdog Phonepay Plus is urging 4,300 secondary schools to join a scheme to raise awareness among pupils of the potential pitfalls.

It has created a lesson on ringtones for the information and communication technology curriculum.

Phonepay Plus received more than 8,000 mobile-related complaints in 2007/8.

That is an increase of 108% on the previous year. In the first three months of 2008 alone, the watchdog received more than 4,500 complaints.

The most commonly cited concerns were about paid-for promotional messages and misleading subscription charges.

Business plans

The Phone Brain initiative also involves the Ministry of Sound record label, the government-sponsored young enterprise campaign Make Your Mark and the Peter Jones Foundation, which was founded by one of the entrepreneurs featured in the BBC programme Dragons' Den.

Organisers say the lesson will not stop teenagers downloading commercial ringtones, but will hopefully make them check the small print.

They hide charges, mislead customers about pricing and drop important details down into the small print
George Kidd, Phonepay Plus

They also say it will raise awareness of the opportunities associated with phone-paid services by encouraging 13 to 18-year-olds to devise a business plan for their own service.

A select few will then have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to Peter Jones and become involved with the new National Skills Academy for Enterprise.

Earlier this year, George Kidd, from Phonepay Plus, told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat that young people felt they were being "ripped of" by some ringtone providers.

"Some firms are starting to cut the corners," he said. "They hide charges, mislead customers about pricing and drop important details down into the small print."

Many of those who have complained had intended to buy just one ringtone, but found themselves locked into an expensive subscription.

The watchdog said it had seen evidence that some customers had been charged thousands of pounds as a result of bad practice by some companies.

Pupils involved in the scheme will also be able to create their own ringtones using Ministry of Sound music.

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