StarHub customer 'at wits end' after failing to get unauthorised Google Play transactions waived

She was allegedly charged over $1,500 in Google Play transactions in 2021, but has yet to be able to reverse them

Facebook user Eng WinWin posted on Complaint Singapore Facebook on 12 March, claiming that her StarHub account was hacked and used to buy game items, and she has not been able to waive the extra charges.
Facebook user Eng WinWin posted on Complaint Singapore Facebook on 12 March, claiming that her StarHub account was hacked and used to buy game items, and she has not been able to waive the extra charges. (PHOTO: Getty Image, Screenshot of Complaint Singapore FB and Reuters/Starhub)

SINGAPORE – A StarHub mobile customer was left frustrated when she saw her bill surpassed $1,500 for Google Play transactions she claimed she did not make, and the extra charges have to yet be waived.

On Sunday (12 March), Eng WinWin posted on the Complaint Singapore Facebook page claiming that her account had been hacked between September and October 2021.

It had been used to purchase games from YoungJoy Technology Limited, now known as Moonton, the developer of games such as Mobile Legends.

As a result, she tried to reverse those transactions by contacting StarHub, Google, the police, and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) but could not do so.

After about a year, she received a lawyer's letter from StarHub in November 2022 requesting a payment of $1,536.20 within seven days from the date of issuance, which she shared in the Facebook post.

StarHub investigated the matter

As part of its investigation, StarHub told Yahoo News Singapore on Friday (17 March) that Eng WinWin had Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) on her mobile line, which enabled her to charge payments to her mobile bill for third-party mobile content such as in-app purchases.

"We assisted the customer by activating Premium Rate Services (PRS) barring service, which blocked further DCB charging to her mobile bills," the telco explained.

The telco said it had billed the user on behalf of Google through DCB, and had advised her to clarify the matter with Google, including the possibility of reversing the charges, since the telco had no visibility into transactions between them.

StarHub also shared that it offers SMS-activated PRS-barring services to protect mobile users from unintended mobile content purchases through DCB.

"We encourage customers to only enable DCB with third-party content providers if they want to charge their content purchases to their mobile bills," it advised.

The authentication feature prevents accidental purchases

In response to Yahoo News Singapore on Friday, Google also said it was looking into the matter.

The technology giant said, "We also provide steps users can take to prevent accidental purchases on their device from apps and games available outside of the Family section by turning on authentication."

The authentication feature on Google Play prevents users from accidentally purchasing apps and games outside their Family section.

Google Play's Family section automatically requires users to authenticate, or authorise, any purchases, but not other content outside that section, including in-app purchases, unless the authentication function is enabled.

CASE confirmed that the consumer had filed a complaint against StarHub regarding charges for unauthorised transactions.

"The complainant disputed a sum of $1,504.09 charged to the complainant's StarHub account. CASE negotiated the matter with StarHub and other parties involved in the bill for a refund of the said charges but the matter was not resolved," said CASE president Melvin Yong.

Tips to prevent unauthorised third-party transactions via telco contracts

  • Enable Premium Rate Service (PRS) Barring services to prevent any possible occurrence.

  • Do not click on any links sent via text messages from unknown sources, and do not input personal mobile numbers into any dubious or unknown websites;

  • Check your bills regularly for unauthorised transactions, and inform the telco service provider immediately of any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

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