U.S. Mobile Spam Prevention Law Introduced

Today two U.S. senators introduced legislation aimed at curbing unwanted text messages. Called the “m-SPAM Act of 2009,” the potential law, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), brings government intervention into the realm of mobile spam. Named similarly to the CAN-SPAM law that criminalizes email spammers, it’s especially important because–unlike email–text …   Read More

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Today two U.S. senators introduced legislation aimed at curbing unwanted text messages.

Called the “m-SPAM Act of 2009,” the potential law, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), brings government intervention into the realm of mobile spam. Named similarly to the CAN-SPAM law that criminalizes email spammers, it’s especially important because–unlike email–text messages cost money to receive, as part of a data plan or on a message-by-message basis. “Mobile spam invades both a consumer’s cell phone and monthly bill,” Senator Snowe said.

While no one can object to the central idea of the proposed law–to prohibit marketers from sending messages to a “do not contact” type of registry–I hope the Senate treads carefully. Right now, the potential legislation suggests that every number on the Do Not Call registry also be off-limits to SMS senders.

This is not a good idea, because while nobody ever signs up to receive marketing phone calls, many consumers do sign up to receive SMS offers like coupons or sales announcements. By automatically making numbers on the Do Not Call List forbidden from marketers, consumers could be prevented from receiving the texts they actually want.

Hopefully, legitimate marketers and marketing organizations will work with legislators on options, such as (1) making it law to only have opt-in messaging campaigns, an industry-accepted best practice in which consumers sign up to receive SMS; and (2) creating a Do Not Text list separate from the Do Not Call Registry, so that consumers can keep telemarketers at bay while receiving the SMS messages that they truly want.

We’re going to keep an eye on this. We also want to hear what all you legit mobile marketers have to say! Is there a similar law in countries where SMS has been in common use much longer than in the United States? Does anyone have a suggestion to the senators about what the law should and should not contain? Please speak out!

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10 comments

  1. Bill Newman

    Plain and simple! Legit mobile marketing companies that offer a double opt in and opt out format must be exempt in this new legislation. Legit sms marketing is a fantastic new advertising channel for businesses and consumers! If the sms mobile marketing industry has any chance of survival there must be clear separation in this new legislation between spammers and viable marketers. I can only hope that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), clearly understand this!

  2. Mobile Marketing Insight For Small Business | Understanding Marketing

    […] a small business owner, though, you must make sure you’re careful so as to avoid spamming people with mobile marketing. Consumers – and government agencies – are taking spam very seriously and […]

  3. Casey

    I don’t have text messaging on my current plan so text messages are very expensive when I recieve them. I only want to check them if they are an emergency from someone I know.

    The problem is, is that a lot of the time I get a text message my phone doesn’t tell me who it is from and I have to actually open it to get information…

    Unfortunately, a lot of the time it is spam from companies I have never bought anything from (I get a lot from Footlocker 🙁

    They are raising my bill at my expense, its wrong. period.

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  5. Anthony Santaularia

    If people are worried about spam, then it needs to be mandatory at the end of every outgoing text advertising it provides opt-out instructions, that actually let the customer opt-out.

  6. Matt

    @Jason – I agree with you. You know how users are so protective and obsessed with their mobile phones – and rightly so! Especially after getting burned by spam on email. What’s needed is not more laws – because there are always loopholes. What’s needed is a entirely new way of thinking about mobile marketing. That’s what we’ve done at http://justKnow.com – users only get the messages they want – because they self-initiate them. Companies don’t get their mobile phone numbers – but they DO get a heightened brand awareness and begin to build a relationship with their audience.

  7. Jason Pang

    @Matt, I totally agree but it’s those that don’t abide by these rules that make a bad name for mobile marketing. Combine that with companies that collect thousands of #s and then decide to sell them over and over for a profit. That puts you on an endless SPAM list. That needs to be stopped. Maybe there needs to be an audit trail of how a business obtains a # so they can prove it was obtained legitimately.

  8. Matt

    I believe in the concept of ‘self-directed marketing’ — allow users to choose the messages they want – delivered exactly when they want them. Then, include some branding information or a relevant ad along with the message. Clean and simple. http://justKnow.com

  9. Jason Pang

    It’s going to take several components to make this work for consumers and businesses. Make industry best practices for opt-in and opt-out very clear and simple. Lawmakers can help by ensuring there are laws and fines to punish those companies that violate privacy and send SPAM to phones. Also make it a law to not sell phone lists from one company to another w/out user opt-in again. Like any industry, there are a few bad apples that ruin it for the masses.

    Create and publish standard industry terms so consumers don’t have to read the fine print to opt-out. STOP = opt-out, HELP = phone # or web site for details, etc. I’m in the SMS business and try to use intuitive and simple words to keep the entire process simple for consumers. Hope they do something because I get SMS spam and don’t know how I got on the list or even opt out. Very annoying.

  10. Anthony Santaularia

    No reason to punish those that provide a service to business owners for the misdeeds of spammers. Mandatory opt-out messages in every outgoing text.

Comments are closed.