July 21st, 2005

Mobile Spam + Misplaced Charges = $250 Phone Bill

A consumer group in San Diego has filed a complaint against Sprint and Cingular in San Diego accusing each of these wireless carriers of charging consumers for services they are not using. I have yet to be charged for applications that I haven’t purchased, but then again, I am on Verizon’s network which they haven’t opened up yet to third party providers to the extent that Cingular has.

I can sympathize with the pain of paying for SMS messages, however, that I didn’t want. Back in March of 2005, I did a series of blogs on SMS.ac. I signed up to be a member of their network. Almost immediately I started receiving requests for dates – which in my mind is spam when they come from 21-year-olds living in San Diego. Worse, I had to pay 25 cents for each of the messages that I was receiving. The only way to stop the messages was to log into my SMS.ac account and block everyone from contacting me.

Our latest data shows that 10 percent of online consumers have already received and been annoyed by SMS spam – a fairly high number given the measures that carriers have in place to approve campaigns and manage the content on their networks. Our report has a lot more detail on consumer attitudes towards marketing on their cell phones.

It’ll be too bad if it takes legislation to protect consumers from unwanted text messages especially in this case where the carriers don’t want it either – the costs of bill disputes are already high and are likely only going to be higher as they open their networks to third party content providers. It is a tough place to be when content providers and consumers are pressuring carriers to open their networks, but at the same time want the carriers to manage the billing and quality of the content perfectly. Situations like this will certainly help the carriers from sliding down towards the looming “dumb pipe” scenario that they fear.

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