[LINK] mobile phone spam

Craig Sanders cas at taz.net.au
Sun Jun 15 14:07:25 AEST 2008

On Sun, Jun 15, 2008 at 11:37:58AM +1000, Ivan Trundle wrote:
> > The only way to stop it is to text STOP, in caps, as a reply.
> (Devil's advocate) Is there a better way?
> Surely, if someone sends a message to a business of this nature, then  
> they are asking for a business transaction to take place. The  
> regulatory bodies (ACCC etc) have demanded that businesses include the  
> fine print to show what the receiver is liable for.
> I've a teenage daughter, too - but we've both investigated this, and  
> my daughter, like many of her cohort, are well-versed on the traps  
> here (possibly more than we are).

if they're aware, it's only because they know or know of people who
have been conned by these scams. a lot of these services (ring-tones in
particular) are targetted at teenagers, and the advertising makes it
seem like they're only buying one ring-tone....you have to look very
closely at the fine-print that's flashed on the TV screen for only a few
seconds to notice that it's a subscription service.

> The problem here is that it should be abundantly clear that 99% of  
> these 'services' are all based on a *subscription* model (granted,  
> some businesses are not), and that action is required by the receiver  
> to stop the subscription.

no, the problem is that it is NOT abundantly clear.

these scammer scumbags make an enormous amount of money, judging by the
amount of after-midnight advertising they do....and most of that from
people who don't notice the tiny little fine-print beneath all the
bouncing tits that hint at it being a $5/day subscription service....and
then find themselves unable to unsubscribe for months no matter how many
times they send "STOP".

$5/day is $150/month.  

how many people would sign up for that kind of on-going expense for
worthless crap like ring-tones or mobile phone porn or numerology or
chat services if they had any idea how much it was going to cost?

most people who sign up are probably doing it for a laugh on impulse
when they're pissed, thinking that they're only spending a couple of
bucks on a novelty, without realising that they're subscribing to a
stupidly expensive service that is very difficult to unsubscribe from.

(or they've got hold of their mate's phone and think it would be funny
to send him/her some tacky porn)

i know one person who got suckered by one of these scams (for
ring-tones, not porn. IIRC the cost was about $60/month). she tried
repeatedly to cancel the service that she never realised she was
subscribing to....and after several months, she only got unsubscribed
when her mother contacted the service and complained. as soon as they
realised the unwilling subscriber was only 14 years old, they cancelled
it immediately - they knew they didn't have a leg to stand on as a minor
can not enter into a contract. my bet is that if she was 18 or perhaps
even 16, she'd still be getting billed by the scumbags now, several
years later.

> What would work better than STOP?

laws that prohibited implied subscription, i.e. that required an overt
and explicit subscription request. with civil fines AND criminal
penalties for business owners, senior management, and company directors
who flout the law.

and fines & jail time for taking more than 1 business day to process
an unsubscribe instruction (note that word, "instruction", not
*request*, because that's what it is), and even 1 business day is too
lenient - if they can automate the subscription, they can automate the

if they're personally liable, that would stop con-men suckering people
into subscribing to a service when they thought they were just buying
ONE ring-tone or whatever.

at least it has a chance of doing so.  nothing else does.


craig sanders <cas at taz.net.au>

BOFH excuse #368:

Failure to adjust for daylight savings time.

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