Dial 1900-RIPOFF

I was glancing at my mobile phone bill, trying to make sense of a 3 minute 41 second call that cost me $13.62 (inc GST). The number said 1902226218, which I didn’t initially recognise, and had two calls listed against it at the same time. How could this make sense?

I was going to ring up the phone company and ask them how it was possible to make two calls at once, but they were only open 9-5. This gave me a little more time to think about it, and I realised that one item was the air-time, and the other was the 1900 premium service fee.

But what could it be? No, I don’t indulge in that kind of phone call.

Wait a minute… it couldn’t be that time I decided to get hold of the Doctor Who theme music (polyphonic version) for my phone, so I could play it to the kids, could it? (And absolutely not to play it as a mobile phone ringtone). I checked. Sure enough, it’s the number listed on YourTV for polyphonic ringtones.

$13.62?!? For a sodding phone jingle?!???

Now, I’ve recently discovered that my kids are wont to look at this site from school, so I’m considering that I may have to start tempering my language. But HOLY F—ING S–T, have I been ripped off or what? That’s the price of a cinema ticket, or would have gone a good way towards a DVD.

I remember calling. I rang on a whim. I didn’t dawdle through the menus. While it wasn’t quite as bad as that premium service on the Simpsons “You… have reached… XYZ… this… number…. is charged… at Argh… dollars… … per minute”, they did string it out a bit. It certainly wasn’t as simple as entering the code displayed on the web page. And I obviously didn’t quite register that it was going to cost me $3.96 a minute, or how many minutes it would take.

There are cheaper ways of getting ringtones — converting free MIDI files yourself using Nokia’s software, or SMS-based fixed-cost services. I bet this mob don’t get much repeat business.

There’s not much I can do about it. I’d love to share it around Neimann-Marcus-hoax-style, but evidently it’s copy-protected to prevent that. All in all it’s pretty damn cheeky really… I bet they haven’t paid the music’s copyright owner for it.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

14 replies on “Dial 1900-RIPOFF”

Ah the ringtones, they say its going to be $5 billion industry by next year. Hmmmm, time to start a business plan.

Having worked in this ringtone industry for a while (and worked for one of BlueSkyFrog’s competitors), I can offer some insider info –

– BlueSkyFrog is one of the biggest ringtone providers around. You’d be stunned at the amount of revenue they’re pulling. They’d almost certainly get a lot of repeat business. Main demographic is teens/early 20s.

– Dunno why, but market perception is that per minute services offer more value than a ‘fixed-rate’ service. And it certainly shows in revenue figures.

– It’s sneaky, but most companies don’t tell you how long the call is expected to take (and under TISSC guidelines they don’t have to). The record for our company was a 36 minute call!! Obviously someone was listening to all of the random ringtones in our system… Ended up downloading about a dozen.

– There ain’t no such thing as copy protection on MIDIs. That is all ;-)

– All ringtone companies are required to pay at least 11% of their profits as royalties to APRA. And believe me they keep a very vigilant eye on all the companies – we heard about it really quickly if we tried anything dodgy (not while I was there of course ;)).

Hope this was reasonably useful.

I found your site to be a great read,
and it’s interesting immersing myself into another aussies life and to disconnect my own mind from my obligation for a half hour.
p.s. :)

that number is in canada. I beleive in the province of nova scotia. It is in north america anyways, but nova scotia is 1 902.

Thats why it was so expensive.

This left me with a mental image of Homer Simpson waiting for the coach to get his sports tips out. “In… the… game… of…” Not a comparison, mind.

I always thought those services were a ripoff, but $13.62. Wow. Little wonder they can afford so much advertising space in various magazines.

hmmm when i call australia i have to call 011 but when i was in australia and wanted to call home i just hit 1….wait a minute… maybe i hit 01. but i know for sure it isnt double 1. I’m confused. 1 99’s are sex numbers here as well.

Krista, maybe you dialled +1 from a mobile phone? In any case, calling Canada is considerably cheaper — between 21 and 55 cents per minute depending on your home phone plan!

hence why i use nice, normal, comes-with-my-unfashionably-functional-phone ring. it cost me $9 to get a new logo and the company (mobileFUN or some stupid name) played about three minutes of crap before letting me enter a code.

I worked with BlueSkyFrog in the very early days (since before they were BlueSkyFrog ) and can confirm they certainly do pay royalties for the song. Even during development and testing the royalties issue reared its head.

I have the theme tune from Galaga as my ringtone. A couple of years ago I had lunch with a friend who was visiting the state with her partner. He’s a programmer who was working for a games company at the time, and had it as his ringtone. He had no way of sending it though, and my phone has no way of entering them by hand, so I ended up searching online until I found someone I could buy it from.

A few moments and several attempts at fumbling my way through the menus later, I had the Galaga theme on my phone! When the bill arrived I discovered it had cost me a fraction under $15.

I *still* have it as my ringtone though, it was too expensive to change ;)

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