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Closer to resolution of SMS problems: Operators are very cooperative

This afternoon OPTA organised a meeting with mobile operators and consumer interest groups to find a quick solution to problems involving SMS services. OPTA has formulated requirements in consultation with Stichting Ombudsman and Consumentenbond. The key point is that consumers need to know beforehand what the implications are of sending a message to an SMS service. This involves questions such as How many messages will I receive? What will they cost? and How can I unsubscribe?

During the meeting it appeared that the network operators acknowledged the problems involving SMS messaging subscriptions as well as the need for a code of conduct. In order to ensure that the problems were tackled promptly it was agreed that the operators would present a joint code of conduct at the end of April. In addition, it was agreed that the operators would themselves present an outline for this code of conduct in two weeks’ time. This will be done at a second meeting hosted by OPTA on the 11 March.

Clarity for consumers

Mobile operators must ensure that consumers are informed about SMS messaging services. This needs to cover both those messaging services which they provide themselves and those of other organisations (‘telephone messaging agencies’) that are given access to the network. As a telecommunications regulator, OPTA will ensure that this information is provided in a satisfactory manner. The network service providers constitute a vital link between end users and those businesses which market these SMS messaging subscriptions, on the one hand, because they grant these companies access to their networks and, on the other hand, because they charge the relevant end users tariffs on their behalf.

It appears that consumers are often not aware that they have registered for a type of subscription, which involves them being charged for every message that they receive. OPTA, Stichting de Ombudsman and the Consumentenbond have noted that these complaints are extending to include, for example, unsolicited registration, failed deregistration procedures and difficulties which callers are experiencing in their efforts to present any proof. Adverse reports in the media are threatening to place the developing SMS market in a negative light.