The Growing Problem of SPAM Text Messages

• 24/09/2011


The Information Commissioner’s Office says that it’s aware of “the growing problem of spam text messages”, in particular with regard to those that sell financial services.

Organisations must comply with a set of regulations when sending text messages, and the ICO has seen a large growth in the amount of complaints relating to SMS from companies who deal in accident claims, loans and mis-sold PPI.

Companies are not allowed by law to send consumers messages if they have obtained their details through a third party, but they can if they have previously sold a product or negotiated for a sale with consumers.

However, consumers should be given the opportunity to refuse texts when their details are initially collected and there should be a “simple way to opt in”.

The regulations only cover consumers and do not apply to businesses who are receiving marketing texts.

The ICO recommends that consumers should “be careful who [they] give [their] telephone number to” and should take care not to publish their number on the internet.

Additionally consumers should take care to read privacy policies and ensure that they opt out if they don’t want to receive SMS.

Should a consumer find that they are receiving messages that breach the regulations, they should in the first instance contact the organisation responsible by letter or email.

Often, it is also possible to ask many companies to cease sending unwanted SMS by texting STOP to the telephone number the text is received from.

However, if the company does not disclose its name in the text, extra care must be taken as, if the sender is unscrupulous, this will simply confirm the number is live.

Should consumers receive texts that they are charged for, they should contact PhonepayPlus who regulate products and services that charge to users’ bills.

They believe that the messages are being sent by companies who specialise in “lead generation” in order to identify consumers who might buy the products and then make money selling these “leads”.
The ICO also think that these companies do not actually hold any information on consumers, but are randomly sending to “hundreds of thousands” of mobile numbers in the hope of getting a bite.

This is in breach of the Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulations as they are being sent unsolicited.

The ICO says that the messages also “appear to breach other legislation and codes of practice”.

The ICO stated: “The law says that any organisation looking to offer this kind of service must identify themselves when they contact you. The companies sending these messages are therefore breaking the law and we would therefore advise that you do not reply to these messages.”

Should you receive these messages, you should contact your service provider who will attempt to block the texts.

The ICO is working with other regulating bodies in order to try to identify the companies who are sending messages illegally. It’s also looking into whether insurance companies routinely provide details of their customers to claims companies.


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Tags: SMS Spam, SPAM, text sms, UK

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