Cell Phone Premium Text Message - What Is It and How To Stop It
Have you ever seen on your cell phone bill a charge of $2, $5 or $more for a “premium text message?” If you have, then you may be wondering what premium text messaging is, why you are being billed for it, and how you can stop receiving premium text messages.
This article covers these cell phone questions, plus gives you other useful texting information to help prevent you from falling prey to unwanted text messages and third party sms advertising scams. There are also links to relevant Canadian government agencies for further information on premium text messaging services.
In today’s society of get it, want it and do it fast, text messaging (socially called "texting" or "Short Message Service / SMS" in the telecommunication industry) has become the new and popular way to quickly communicate with friends, business and family using a cell phone’s keypad or touch screen. Any cell phone user, including sms premium services providers, can a send text message from their cell phone to another cell phone subscribed to a cell phone provider’s sms service. This is where new generation scams come easily into play.
Premium text messaging, also known as “Premium Short Codes,” or "Common Short Codes." or just “Short Codes,” are a way third party companies like product advertisers, government, media, entertainment and service providers interact wirelessly with customers through their cell phones.
The term "short codes" stems from text marketers' use of short digit numbers, usually spelling out a short word, instead of using the longer 10 digit telephone number. Using cell phone short codes (text messages) means customers can remember the number easier, it's catchier, the sent text messages can be done from anywhere and is receive almost instantly.
Listed as four to six digit trademark numbers on your cell phone statement, for example VOTE, third party billers and sms premium services providers send you entertainment products by text message or invite you to participate (you texting them) by way of your cell phone and charge you, through your cell phone provider, for each text message.
Premium text messages incur extra charges in addition to the standard fee charged for a regular text message.
So how does one end up subscribing for this sms text messaging?
Well, when you, or anyone else who has access to your cell phone, subscribe (unknowingly, inadvertently or otherwise) to premium text messaging services, you are billed for every text message you receive, be it a one time or a recurring (monthly) charge.
- When you watch a competition television show, and they ask you to text in your vote to participate for only costs x cost, you may be signing up for a third party premium text message.
- When you do an "IQ test", or "celebrity quiz", or a “who’s interested in you” match, or any such gimmick on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites, and you enter your cell phone number at the end for the results, you may be signing up for third party text message services.
- When you fill out an online contest, and the contests asks for your cell phone number, you may be subscribing to premium text message products.
- When a website, television show, newspaper advertisement, social network, or other such asks you to send a text to INFO, HELP, RADIO, JOIN, GIVE, DONATE, LOVE, etc., or to a specific 4, 5 or 6 digit number, you may be subscribing to premium text messages.
Other sign-up areas include texting services for chatting/dating sites, daily horoscopes, trivia quizzes, entertainment and joke alerts, sports updates, voting or competition texts, celebrity gossip, Lotto results, music and ringtones, and even government text. All of these may sign you up for premium text messaging billings collected through your cell phone service provider.
Now of course, there are many respectable text messaging services and customers who voluntarily sign-up for premium text messages. If you happen to be one of those customers who willingly signed up for the premium text message services, and are fully aware of and happy to pay the $1 - $300 a month charge for it, then that’s fine.
As usual though, bad apple sms billers, and deceitful sign-up practices ruin it for everyone. These shady and deceptive marketers take advantage of un-savvy, cell phone customers by not being truthful about the actual text message cost, deceitfully offering a "free" texting product while not mentioning the fact that a monthly subscription is attached, claiming a one-time billing, but billing monthly knowing that most customers rarely check their cell phone bill’s every detail.
- Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS CPRS)T
CCTS-independent Canadian organization dedicated to working with Canadians and their telecommunication service providers (TSP) to resolve complaints...
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
CRTC has the job of regulating and supervising the broadcasting and telecommu nications systems in Canada.
- Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA)
CWTA is the authority on wireless issues, trends and developments in Canada.
Unfortunately, social text messaging scams are happening to many people, and there really are no proper laws to protect consumers from deceptive third party text messaging practices.
Even the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) won’t help much, because as far as they are concerned, third party text message charges are fine as long as the messaging advertiser informs the cell phone user up-front and provides the cell phone user with a way to cancel the premium text message service (note that informing includes barely readable, tiny, fine print on the bottom of the page, or somewhere on a page).
Ever notice how this kinda conflicts with your consumer rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 which reveals that all contract information must be prominent, clear and easy to understand, and any disputed language understanding must be interpreted in favour of the consumer.
In the CRTC’s words, SMS “industry self-regulation mechanisms... include safeguards that serve the interests of consumers.” Who are they kidding? Only when lots of people are scammed royally and get pissed-off enough to demand changes will consumers see some ethical practices ensue.
Even more incredulous and ridiculous is the fact that all cell phone providers are fully aware of the corruption surrounding unscrupulous, premium text messaging practices and the short code scammers, but refuse to do anything to help their cell phone customers. These phone companies claim that the customer subscribed to the premium messaging service, and should have read all the information, fine print or not, before signing up.
They lay the blame squarely with the customers, don’t want to hear the extenuating circumstances surrounding signing up, and will try to force their customers to pay for any premium text messaging charges received until either the customer can prove that they really don't want the subscription or the customer can get the corrupt billers to stop the service (Yeah right, like a thief will give back the money he stole from you and then stop ripping you off).
After a conversation with one of the two big phone companies in Canada, their call representative told me that the phone company is not responsible for third party text messages, because they do not have a contract with you for the subscribed text message service you enrolled in, and so they have no obligation to offer you consumer protection. They say that they are only the collection agent for the third party fraudsters and crooks: an evasion of responsibility if you ask me. Might this explain why every cell phone company’s contract offers free, unlimited text messages except, wait for it, (in very fine print) for premium text messages!? Hmm.
What can and must you do to protect yourself and your money from unethical text messaging and premium text message services? Here are some ideas on how to stop, prevent and block premium text messages on your cell phone.
1) Don’t give out your cell phone number. If a websites, contest, television, or any other event/product asks for your cell phone number and will not complete the contest, vote, purchase or whatever activity without it, run like heck, because this is most likely a sign-up for a text messaging service.
2) Inspect every cell phone bill you receive carefully. Look for any mention of the words “premium text message,” “short code message,” "SMS" or calls from four to six digit numbers on your monthly bill. If you find one for this month, be sure to check every monthly bill before that. Premium text messages are usually billed monthly, so if there is one charge there is usually more somewhere.
3) Unsubscribe from the premium text message service. If you find a premium text message on your cell phone that you did not authorize, unsubscribe from it immediately. You can unsubscribe by replying to the message with the word STOP, or UNSUBSCRIBE or END (or ARRET in Quebec). Once you've unsubscribed, the third party biller may send you a final “successfully unsubscribed” text message and then stop sending messages to you. Be sure to keep the STOP text message you sent to the third party biller (DO NOT ERASE IT from your cell phone). This is your indisputable proof that you requested the service be stopped.
4) Use the opt-out instructions. Find the first couple of text messages that the third party biller may have sent to you with instructions on how to opt-out, and follow it. This opt-out is usually a five number code that you send a STOP text message to. By law, these third party text message advertisers must provide you with the way to stop receiving their services. Again, keep the OPT-OUT text message you sent to the them (DO NOT ERASE IT from your cell phone). This is your irrefutable evidence that you requested the service be stopped.
5) Escalate the issue to other authorities.
if your STOP or OPT-OUT text message doesn’t work, and you continue to receive
texts, find and contact the text message biller by locating them through the Canadian
Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). If you can’t find them
listed there, call your cell phone provider to get the third party biller’s
contact information. If the third party
biller makes it difficult to reach them by suspiciously having their line
always busy, disconnected or in other ways unreachable, show your cell phone
provider your evidence of trying to stop the subscription, and demand that they
do something to either stop it or reimburse your charges. If this doesn’t work, make a complaint to the
Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services
6) Block text messaging on your cell phone. If you do not text regularly or don’t plan on texting in the future, call your cell phone provider and request they block texts on your cell phone. Note that Bell Mobility does not just block premium text message services. All text messages, incoming and outgoing, to everyone is blocked.
7) Watch out for “don’t reply” text messages. If you receive a text message that says that you don’t have to reply to it, send a STOP reply message to the originating text, because these "don’t reply" messages are most likely a reverse sign-up trick to get you to sign-up.
8) Read everything and especially read the fine print before you sign up for or click accept to anything. It may be very tedious to read one or more pages of legalese on the screen or on paper, but since no one is looking out for your rights except you, it literally pays to read everything.
9) If all else fails, visit a local media reporter and your government official elect. In Canada, consider talking to you MP about Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act and Bill S-220, the Anti-Spam Act.
Quick Cell Phone Facts:
- Cell phones first came to Canada in 1985.
- Text messaging first started in Canada in April 2002.
- SMS-Short Message Service or Common Short Codes began in July 2003.
Remember, you are responsible for all cell phones in your name, for any charges acquired on them and for paying the FULL amount of those charges.
Treat your cell phone number as if it is a part of your personal identity. Guard it dearly, because charges can easily be racked up on it by unscrupulous, text message services potentially resulting in credit problems or landing you in conflict with your cell phone service provider.
Also, be aware that a lot of third party text messaging service providers aim their ads towards children and teens. It is a good idea to explain to them too about premium text messages and how to stop or prevent them.
callmefoxxy.com, my pen is a mighty sword!
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