Global mobile marketer Jesta Digital LLC, will provide refunds to a large number of consumers and pay an additional $1.2 million to the Federal Trade Commission as part of a settlement. The FTC alleged that Jesta crammed unwanted charges onto consumers cell phone bills.
According to the complaint, Jesta - which also does business as Jamster -ran phony virus-scan ads on consumers Android mobile devices while they played the Angry Birds mobile app. The ads falsely claimed that a virus was detected on the consumers mobile device. The ads incorporated an image of a robot designed to look similar to the Android operating systems robot logo.
When consumers clicked on the ads, Jesta presented them with a series of screens or landing pages that included bold and prominent language and visuals about protecting Android mobile devices from viruses.
While a screen contained a subscriber button, the FTC alleged that if consumers clicked anywhere on the screens or landing pages, Jesta charged them $9.99 per month directly on their mobile bill for ringtones and other mobile content. If consumers actually attempted to subscribe and download Jestas so-called anti-virus software to their mobile devices, the download often failed, according to the FTC complaint. Jestas internal emails quoted in the FTCs complaint are particularly illustrative. In one email, a Jesta official was anxious to move [Jestas] business out of being a scam and more into a valued service.
Jesta charged unsuspecting consumers through a novel, little-used billing method known as Wireless Access Protocol, or WAP, billing. WAP billing captures a consumers mobile phone number from the mobile device, which is used to place charges on their mobile phone bill without the need to obtain the information manually from the consumer.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Jesta is prohibited from making deceptive statements about viruses and anti-virus software, the cost of goods or services, or the conditions of a purchase. Jesta must also receive express verifiable authorization from a consumer before placing any charges on a consumers mobile phone bill.
Jesta is required to automatically provide full refunds to consumers who were billed between Dec. 8, 2011, and the date of entry of the order for any good or service that involved the company claiming the consumers device was infected with malware or that the Jesta would provide purchasers with software to protect their mobile device from malware.
For consumers Jesta charged between Aug. 1 and Dec. 7, 2011, Jesta is required to notify them of their ability to obtain a refund.