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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Text service fights mobile spam
Mobile phone
Unwanted spam text messages are a big problem
Vodafone is looking at new ways to help its customers cut out annoying mobile spam.

It has launched a trial service called VSpam which it hopes will make it easier for people in the UK to report unsolicited text messages.

When a Vodafone customer receives any text spam, they simply forward it for free to a short code number or by typing VSpam into their phones.

An automated report is then created and kept as a record by both Vodafone and Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS), the premium rate services watchdog.

The trial has been welcomed by ICSTIS, who have been working with mobile operators to find ways of stopping spammers who advertise services on premium rate numbers.

Huge rise

"We welcome any initiative like this which alleviates the problem before it comes public complaint issue," Paul Whiteing, ICSTIS deputy director told BBC News Online.

So far this year, ICSTIS have had over 4,000 complaints about unwanted mobile spam Mr Whiteing said. On average they receive 10,000 in a year.

Usually, mobile users are advised to report any unsolicited text messages directly to ICSTIS.

The VSpam service should make it easier for spam reports to be followed up and investigated, and is a good means of gathering information about spammers, explained Mr Whiteing.

Children text messaging
Many premium rate services reach childrens' mobiles

The service was originally launched in a trial for Vodafone employees a month ago.

"It has proved to be an extremely valuable tool in helping to track down people who send unsolicited text messages," said Jeremy Flynn, head of Vodafone's commercial partnerships.

"We recognise that this is an issue for our customers which we want to help resolve."

Legitimate premium rate services through which people buy and receive content like ringtones to their mobiles are increasingly popular, according to a recent survey by Vodafone and ICSTIS.

Nearly 50% had used these services voluntarily because they were convenient and useful.

However, 63% had been annoyed by unsolicited messages asking them to reply using a premium rate and most agreed there should be tighter controls on them, especially those targeting children.

Spam shame

ICSTIS has prosecuted several service providers so far and plans to "name and shame" those who currently support the service providers running such premium rate services.

"We will continue to work with all mobile operators to identify ways to stamp out this practice so that consumers can have confidence when using premium rate services on their mobiles," says Mr Whiteing.

Vodafone is the first UK mobile operator to offer this service. The short code for Vodafone customers who want to report spam messages is 87726.


SEE ALSO:
Vodafone in '400m user buyup'
10 Aug 03  |  Business
How to keep your life junk free
05 Aug 02  |  dot life
'Huge' complaints over mobile spam
08 Aug 02  |  UK News
Mobile spam on the rise
08 Jul 02  |  Science/Nature


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