SMS carriers adopt antispam code

Internet spam law still has no introduction date

SMS operators last week signed their “commitment and support” of a voluntary antispam code for text messaging — beating legislation on mainstream internet-mediated spam which is waiting to introduced into Parliament.

The SMS code provides for customers to opt in to receive marketing messages from their phone-service supplier and all “message originators” with which the supplier has an agreement, or opt to receive messages from individual originators.

Message originators must not send marketing messages to customers who have not opted in, but the code only covers originators who have an agreement with the phone supplier. It does not stop spam from originators operating outside an agreement with the supplier.

The user may choose to opt out of receiving marketing messages at any time and the phone-service supplier and originator must respect this change.

The code makes it clear that messages from charities and other non-profit organisations do qualify as marketing messages and are governed by the code. Australian internet antispam law attracted some criticism for excluding charitable, religious and political promotions.

Message originators must include an identifier with each message, so it is clear who originated it. Phone service providers must have a formal contract with message originators, and a system of warnings and the ultimate sanction of termination of the agreement are put in place to prevent any violation of these contracts.

Content of messages and obtaining, retention and use of subscriber information are governed by the provisions of the Telecommunications Privacy Code, adapted from the Privacy Act.

It is impossible to predict when the internet antispam legislation may be brought into Parliament, says a spokeswoman for IT Minister David Cunliffe. “We’re seeking a legislative spot, but priority of legislation is up to the Leader of the House.”

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