Jamba, the Verisign-owned ringtone vendor, seems to have saturated the patience of regulators in Europe with its torturous Crazy Frog tune.
The campaign has proved so successful that Crazy Frog's reworking of Harold Faltermeyer's 'Axel F' beat Coldplay to No 1 in the pop charts. The Berlin-based company has grossed an estimated £14m from the ringtone.
The Dutch Consumer Watchdog says it has received "thousands of complaints", mostly from people who say they are not able to unsubscribe (easily) from the SMS messages, which cost €1,20 each. Dutch papers have already called Crazy Frog "the biggest plague in ringtones".
In Germany an investigation has been initiated by the Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz (KJM), which protects children against doubtful media practices.
Meanwhile, UK watchdog ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services) is investigating complaints over hidden subscription charges levied by Jamba. The UK regulator says it has received more than 100 complaints about its service.
This is not the first time that Jamba has attracted the attention of the watchdogs. The Dutch Advertising Standards Authority has now banned all TV ads from the company's 2004 "Jamba Sir Mix-A-Lot" ringtone and wallpaper campaign, which it ruled as misleading. Jamba appealed the ruling, but had its complaint rejected by the Authority last month. New Jamba TV campaigns are not affected by the ruling.
In Berlin, Jamba doesn't seem to be impressed with the uproar. Earlier this year a number of complaints were submitted to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority. Users still feel they are duped into agreeing to pay not just for one ringtone but for an indefinite and costly service.
Surely, this is not good news for VerigSign, which acquired Jamba last year for $273m in cash and stock. Is nobody listening at VeriSign HQ in California? ®