ACA takes aim at SMS spam

Australia's telecommunications regulator the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) issued a code Friday to restrict marketers sending spam via SMS (short messaging service) to mobile phones.

With the code registered, marketers who send unsolicited and intrusive SMS messages may be asked to comply with the code, and face significant financial penalties if they fail to take action, ACA said in a statement.

The code, developed by the Australian Communications Industry Forum, states that:

-- marketers are bound by "opt-in" rules, so they may not send messages unless they have been requested by the subscriber, or the subscriber has given prior consent to receive messages

-- marketers must provide subscribers with an easy-to-use, convenient, and low-cost opt-out procedure and must act on the opt-out request within a reasonable time-frame, typically 48 hours.

-- all marketing messages must identify the sender using a recognized identifier

Although SMS spam, which costs marketers more than e-mail spam, may never reach the levels of e-mail spam, it has unique features that make it undesirable, according to the ACA.

Mobile phones are a more personal point of contact and more relied on than e-mail, and a mobile phone's capacity to store information is much lower than that of a PC.

"Mobile phones have limited capacity to store messages and recipients have no choice but to open the message if they want to clear their message box," the ACA said in its statement. "It is regarded by many consumers as intrusive."

Research groups estimate that around 350 million SMS messages are sent in Australia each month from a mobile phone subscription base of 11.5 million.

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