Inveterate dabbler in business, travel, gadgets & life

Here is reply from ICSTIS regarding complaints about SMS spam:-

Dear Sir or Madam

Unsolicited text message marketing

I am writing in response to your complaint about unsolicited text messaging.

ICSTIS supervises both the content and advertising for premium rate services. ICSTIS develops and applies a Code of Practice to the companies which operate premium rate services (service providers). These companies are bound by their contract with the network operators such as BT, Cable & Wireless and Vodafone to comply with the requirements of this Code. Premium rate numbers are usually prefixed with the 090 code.

This email is being sent to those who have complained about a text message that in itself is not being promoted by a premium rate number (for example, it is promoted by a UK National Rate 0871 number), or where the premium rate number supplied is incorrect. Please note that ICSTIS does not regulate text messaging in itself; we regulate services that are promoted by a premium rate number, irrespective of the medium used to promote it. However, we can provide information about our experience with text messages that have been promoted by a premium rate number.

For some time now ICSTIS has been receiving a significant number of complaints from recipients of unsolicited text message marketing. Some complainants contest the claims made in these text advertisements, while others object to or even take offence to the subject matter. However, most complainants simply express aggravation at the undue inconvenience of receiving unwanted unsolicited text messages. In our experience the companies who advertise by unsolicited text message appear to obtain recipients’ mobile telephone numbers using one or more of the following methods:

* Random dialling of 07 number ranges.

* From recipients who have previously requested aftermarket ringing tones or

logos to be sent to their mobile telephone.

* From people who pass on their ‘friends’ mobile telephone numbers for ‘recommend a friend’ marketing schemes of various sorts.

* Purchasing lists from brokers – the numbers held by list brokers are obtained from an almost infinite range of sources.

In recent months we have used our emergency powers against a number of companies who have been advertising services which appear to be in clear breach of the ICSTIS Code, such as those which claim that the recipient has won a prize of some monetary value when this is not the case. These messages often imply an unnecessary sense of urgency for responding and often fail to clearly identify the cost of a call and the identity of the company providing a service. Most fail to provide information on “terms and conditions” which consumers need to see before deciding whether to dial a premium rate number or text a premium short code.

Our emergency powers allow us to require the suspension of a service prior to an adjudication being made on a case by the ICSTIS Committee. In all recent cases involving services of this kind, our investigations have resulted in the continued suspension of services and the imposition of substantial fines.

With reference to the general issue of text messaging, unlike telephone calls, faxes and terrestrial mail, currently there is no method of blanket barring unsolicited marketing text messages. ICSTIS is currently liasing with the relevant lawmakers – The Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) – regarding the legality of text advertisers targeting recipients who are already TPS (Telephone Preference Service) registered. In the meantime, ICSTIS advises complainants to register their mobile numbers with the TPS. The TPS are available on 020 7291 3300.

If recipients still receive text messages after registering with the TPS, they may contact the OIC on 01625 545 700 to register a formal complaint.

We are also working with mobile networks to prevent spamming and with Oftel to send the message out to all premium rate call-terminating networks that they should not make numbers available for any services of the kind described, without proof that the service has been viewed by ICSTIS.

You may also be interested to know that as of 11 December, the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication will be introduced into UK law. This is an EU-wide directive, which will prohibit the sending of unsolicited text messages by companies based within an EU country.

All ICSTIS adjudications are contained within our Monthly Reports. Copies can be found on our website at

I hope that this is clear and we would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Mark Bend

Case Team Administrator

ICSTIS – The Premium Rate Services Watchdog

4 Clove Building, Maguire Street, London, SE1 2NQ

Tel: 020 7940 7474

Fax: 020 7940 7456