AT&T Breaks Own SMS Regulations With Idol Texts

This week AT&T Wireless wasn’t about to let consumers remain idle about Idol.

To get people to tune in to the season premiere of TV’s American Idol, which it just happens to sponsor, the mobile carrier texted ads to past Idol voters and so-called “heavy texters.” This of course sparked outrage among recipients–as well as a debate in the New York Times between AT&T and Spamhaus spokespersons on whether the messages really were spam.

What seems to have slipped notice, however, is that AT&T seems to have violated its own regulations for commercial usage of SMS.

Last spring, the major U.S. cellular carriers revamped their restrictions on mobile marketing. These rules are important in the United States since no federal laws specifically address text-messaging abuse. Among these revisions was AT&T’s requirement that all recipients must agree to opt-in before they start to get marketing messages.

Judging from their angry and surprised customers, AT&T did not follow this rule.

Sure, consumers were not charged to receive the message. And there was an opt-out note along with the Idol push, telling people to reply STOP if they didn’t want to get future related texts.

But you can’t just follow 2/3, or 3/4, or even 99 percent of best practices and consider yourself compliant. Even if you do own the cellular network.