Since 2008, the federal government has had an easy to use website, available to those of us who live in the United States of America, wherein we have the ability to opt out of spam phone calls from telemarketers. Since this time, anyone living in the United States needs only to visit the site, submit a home/ cellphone number, and request that no advertisers call these numbers. While there are always exceptions and/or complaints over all rules, it appears that these do not call lists have worked amazingly well.
However, these same annoying messages have found another way to circumvent the rules. Their senders have found that it is even easier to send spam-type text messages, which, if they are sent to our cellphones, are charged against our available text limits. So, not only are they threatening our sanity, but also our pocketbooks. To me, it would appear that not only do we need to shore up our current no calls registries, but we also need to implement a ‘do not text’ registry.
Here is an assortment of some of the current laws that are on the books.
- The CAN-SPAM act actually forbids the sending of unsolicited emails to any mobile device, without the owner granting prior authorization to accept commercial advertisements. The problem is that the wording does not specifically mention texting; this is because, when the law was written into statute, texting was not in vogue.
- The Do-Not-Call Implementation Act that many of us use to block out telemarketers and commercial advertisements only applies to landline and wireless phone numbers. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule — one which we face as the November 2012 Election Day approaches. There is nothing currently on the books to prohibit campaigning politicians, or their staffs, from harassing you for support or financial contributions. This is not surprising, since they are not about to implement any restrictions that would hamper their efforts to garner support for their cause. So, being exempt from this law, they are free to call you whenever they want, whatever time they want, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. But once again, texting is not mentioned in the law, and only phone calls count as being blocked.
- The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, known as the TCPA, along with the Federal Communications Commission, aka the FCC, specifically prohibits the use of automatic dialers to call any mobile device. Once again, texting is not mentioned.
- The Federal Trade Commission Act, which basically outlaws deceptive or unfair trade practices, could possibly be construed as an attempt to prohibit text advertising. However, whether a court of law would determine that this law would apply is extremely unlikely.
- The FCC and its Telephone Fraud and Abuse Act governs how telemarketers practice their trade, but nothing in the act specifies text messages.
- Another law is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which prohibits contacting children under the age of 13 years old without parental consent. Technically, if a marketer sends a text message to a youth 13 years old or younger, they could be violating the law — but text messages are not specifically spelled out in the law.
So, until there is a ‘do not text’ registry, are we are all doomed, possibly until we die, to be subjected to unwanted text messages? Not necessarily. There are ways to circumvent these unwanted messages, but you will need some help from your phone carrier.
We are all aware that Internet service providers employ spam filters to filter out unwanted emails. What most of us do not know is that cellphone companies also have filters to block out SMS spam that can help you keep your phone free of unwanted messages. However, what you don’t want to do is reply to the ‘Stop’ link; this could actually increase the spam you receive, since it confirms to the spammer that they are actually reaching a real person.
If you are fortunate enough to own an Android phone, you can also get a free application that will block out unwanted text messages that appear on your phone. One of the applications that you may wish to consider is called Anti SMS Spam & Private Box. This application does a fairly good job of blocking out phone numbers that are not in your contact list or by keyword[s].
For iPhone users, there are also free applications to block out unwanted spam messages. However, you may have to jailbreak your phone to employ one of these non-Apple approved applications. Not being an Apple iPhone user myself, I am not sure exactly how this would be done. I would recommend that Apple iPhone users contact their phone carrier to find out which filtering options are available.
I personally believe that the only way to stop unwanted text messages from telemarketers and spammers is to have a national registry for cellphone users that would block unwanted texts. The registry would be similar to what is in place for landline and cellphone users to block unwanted solicitations on our phones. This would be a positive solution to the problem and would stop those unwanted text messages dead in their tracks.
What do you think?