SMS Spam: what does India tell us about stopping it?

It was little over a month ago when the Indian regulator, TRAI took steps to stem the flood of spam in the country. A number of measures were introduced, including larger fines, registration of messaging companies, and limiting the daily text messages on pre-pay SIMs to 100 per day. It was the latter move that grabbed the worldwide headlines because it was something that significantly affected many consumers. And surprise surprise, it seems to have made little difference. Although a dip was reported shortly after the measure was introduced, feedback from consumers shows that in just a few weeks, the spam levels have gone back up. All the spammers did was to switch their operating method to using web-based messaging systems. There are even reports of a switch to voice-calling.

Although the two markets are different in some respects, this is very telling for the work being done in the UK to reduce SMS spam. No one has yet suggested restricting text messages, however some people have called for ID to be used when buying PAYG SIMs. However, the government is planning to remove paid leads in the personal injuries market. This may or may not reduce the spam in this area, but the evidence is that they will simply move on to something else: PPI claims or debt management. As long as there is money to be made, spammers will try.

Does this mean there’s no solution to spam? There is one, but it will come from a combination of better filtering and management by the operators, better enforcement of the existing regulations and consumer education to ignore and report unsolicited messages.

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