Mobile users in the UK will soon be able to unsubscribe from commercial text message services by sending the keyword "STOP" to originators.
The plan, which begins to go into effect August 1, will make it possible for users who have signed up for premium services such as ringtones, logos, games, adult entertainment, chat, travel reports and other types of information to easily end the messages.
"It gives the consumer greater control," said Sally Anne Partoon, spokeswoman for the Mobile Data Association (MDA). The MDA is the UK-based organization that came up with the consumer protection scheme.
A variety of firms providing such services on British networks such as those operated by Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone are cooperating to implement the plan, Partoon said.
Unsubscribing has always been an issue with cell phones and other mobile devices. Because of the limited amount of text that can be seen on the screen, there is little room for unsubscribe information such as is commonly used in email.
A survey by a regulatory organization demonstrated the widespread use of premium services in the UK. Just under half of the respondents to the survey said they had used at least one premium rate text service. Ringtones were the most widely used service, according to the May 2003 UK study by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Information (ICSTIS), the regulatory body that oversees premium rate services.
More than 62 percent of respondents to the study had downloaded a ringtone. Two-thirds of them had received unsolicited promotions inviting them to reply using a premium rate number.
"It should be just as easy to unsubscribe to a service as to sign up for it in the first place," said Rob Dwight, spokesman for the ICSTIS. "It's easier for consumers to have confidence to sign up for services knowing that if you send that one word off, the service will be stopped."
Dwight noted that the "STOP" command will be only for services that the consumer has signed up for already, "not for typical spam messages like, 'Congrats, you have won a prize, call this number.'"
Providers of services to users signing up for the first time will be required to comply with the code as of August 1. In some cases, providers will have until November 1 to comply, for example if they are third party senders.
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