Mobile users have more protection from premium rate spam text messages thanks to a new consumer protection scheme.
Now mobile users will be able to text "STOP"
Firms providing premium rate text services and content have teamed up with networks to let users cancel the services by sending a single text.
Providers of new or existing services will have to be able to recognise the keyword "STOP" by 1 August 2004.
The scheme, launched by the Mobile Data Association (MDA), should give people more control over what is sent to them.
Stephen Timms, e-commerce minister welcomed the move which forms part of the UK's implementation of the Mobile Content Code announced in January.
"The DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] is pleased to see mobile organisations taking active steps to reduce commercial spam, and providing more consistent controls for consumers," he said.
Premium rate text message services have proven popular with mobile users able to do and see more on sophisticated phones.
But often subscribers forget which services they have signed up to and find cancelling them too complicated, said the MDA.
The types of content offered by such services can include ringtones and logos, games, adult entertainment, chat, travel reports or any other kind of privileged information.
The services cost more than standard SMS messages.
The watchdog that oversees premium rate services, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS), commissioned research into premium text services last year.
In May 2003, it found 47% of respondents had used a premium rate text service, with ringtones proving to be the most service used. More than 62% of had downloaded a ringtone.
Two-thirds had also received unsolicited SMS promotions which had invited them to reply using a premium rate number.
Third parties offering new services through texts will not have to implement the STOP command immediately however. This is because some of the providers will not have the technical capability to decode the command.
Icstis spokesperson George Kidd said it was essential that mobile users were able to cancel services as easily as joining up.
"Playing fair is key to trust and take-up. Our most recent guidance makes clear we want to see STOP as a universal command."
He added it was a good to see providers of these services joining forces with operators to make sure this happened.
"I am pleased that progress in protecting consumer choice, an issue of concern for everyone in the mobile telecoms industry, is being made through our organisation," said MDA's chairman Mike Short.
"It is envisaged that, in the long term, this consumer-responsible scheme could be seen to stimulate demand for premium services as there is a clearly defined method to stop the services/payments when the customer wants."