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Dutch 'Oftel' may outlaw SMS spam

Unwanted messages trigger call for ban on SMS ads

Responding to a rising number of complaints about unwanted SMS text messages, the Dutch phone regulator launched an inquiry that could lead to outlawing SMS spam. This could have knock-on effects for European law in general.

Mobile phone operators, the Dutch consumer union, and teleco regulator Opta started receiving complaints late last year about messages advertising a premium-rate adult telephone service on their mobile phones via SMS, which just said "Call me". When called, the number was charged at premium rate.

Jeroen Nugteren, head of communications at Opta said the regulator had also received complaints about SMS messages seeking charity donations.

In the UK the government has so far wanted to stay out of making a decision as to whether text spam. PC Advisor last week covered the UK angle on SMS spam, and how UK telcos are reluctant to move to an opt-in system.

The inquiry, expected to finish in April, focuses on whether SMS spam should be regulated by the Dutch Telecommunications Act. The Act provides for an opt-in method for advertising per fax and an opt-out system for direct marketing by telephone.

Opt-in requires the recipient to have asked for messages. Opt-out requires the recipient to take action to have his address deleted from distribution lists.

"We are lobbying government for an opt-in system," said Ewald van Kouwen, spokesman for de Consumentenbond, the Dutch consumer union.

PC Advisor last week covered the UK angle on SMS spam, and how UK telcos are reluctant to move to an opt-in system.

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