What to do about SMS Spam?
Posted by Craig H on 2 December 2009
I don’t often get SMS spam (maybe once a month on average) but it really feels like an intrusion when I do. What I get are usually borderline scams of the “you have won a prize” or “our records indicate you are due compensation for your recent accident” type. I really think that replying to these things (even with “STOP” as they suggest) is only going to encourage them, so I did some investigation about what can be done. I’m in the UK, so I’m going to talk about what to do in the UK, but if anyone can add to this with advice for other countries please do so in the comments!
Having gone through a chain of “not our problem” FAQs (network operator → PhonePayPlus → Ofcom) it turns out that the actual body responsible for punishing senders of unsolicited SMSes in the UK is the Information Commissioner’s Office, as the applicable law is the same as for unsolicited fax messages (the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999, amended by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003).
The ICO have an online form for reporting breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) so I’ve gone ahead and filled that out, which has made me feel a bit better 🙂
There does seem to be a loophole here however: the PECR say that if the number is owned by a business rather than an individual, prior permission is not required (and my number is owned by Symbian). If it’s a fax number, it could be registered with the Fax Preference Service to forbid unsolicited fax messages, but there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent SMS Preference Service to forbid unsolicited SMS messages. Am I doomed to accept SMS spam on my work number forever then? We’ll see what the ICO reply to my complaint…