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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 01:47 GMT 02:47 UK
Complaints about text scams skyrocket
Mobile phone
Mobile phone users tricked into dialling premium numbers
The number of complaints about text message and e-mail scams in the UK has skyrocketed.

The independent watchdog, ICSTIS has reported an eight-fold rise in the number of complaints about services promoted by text message which con users into phoning premium numbers.

ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Information Services, also received 1,200 complaints about unsolicited e-mail promotions that trick users into using a premium rate internet dialler without their knowledge.

In total, complaints about services have increased by 43% in 2002 and are at the highest levels in the 17-year history of the premium rate service regulator.

Iceberg of dissatisfaction

We know from experience that there is real potential for harm when the pace of technological development outstrips consumer understanding
Sir Peter North, ICSTIS
"New forms of spam marketing, most obviously text messaging, e-mails and faxes, allow promotions to be sent to millions of people overnight," said ICSTIS Chairman Sir Peter North.

"This so-called marketing is often indiscriminate and the content is too often deceptive and inappropriate to those it reaches."

"I have no doubt that the number of complaints we receive is just the tip of an iceberg of dissatisfaction," he added.

Typical consumer concerns include the unsolicited nature of messages, the misleading descriptions of what is being offering and the lack of accurate pricing information.

Tough stance

Sir North said some of the problem lies in the fact that the spammers are keeping more abreast of technological change than users.

"We know from experience that there is real potential for harm when the pace of technological development outstrips consumer understanding," he said.

Much of ICSTIS's focus for the coming year will be on educating, informing and empowering people to recognise such scams.

ICSTIS has also taken a tough stance on the scammers.

It investigated 36 cases of scams via text message last year, with fines of up to 50,000 imposed on the companies responsible and bars on access imposed on 15 occasions.

An individual behind a campaign of spam e-mail promotions was barred from operating any premium rate services for three years.

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26 May 03  |  Technology

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