Wednesday, 5 October 2011

SMS spam is unwelcome and needs to be eradicated


Free Msg: Our records indicate that you may be entitled to £3750 for the accident you had. To apply free reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP

Far too many of us have received this text message, or something like it. It’s no more and no less than SMS spam, and it’s another example of the endemic dysfunction in personal injury (PI) claims. Let me explain.

Unsolicited text messages promising £3,750 – for some reason, the amount is almost always £3,750 – are sent because of the cavalier disregard for personal data by those who stand to gain by treating PI claims as a commodity. Often enough, these text messages are sent to consumers regardless of whether they’ve actually been in an accident. In fact, recent research from the Direct Marketing Association found that 43 percent of consumers reported receiving such messages.

That statistic strikes me as extraordinary, but to add insult to injury it is often the case the mobile phone users pay for the dubious privilege of receiving a spam text message. On top of that, there is usually a charge to send a text in reply saying ‘STOP’, and yet worse sending ‘STOP’ is unlikely to have the desired effect anyway – the spammers know they’ve got a real person, and so continue with their unwelcome barrage.

It is often difficult to determine exactly who has sent the message, and it is even more difficult to ascertain just how one’s personal data has come to the spammers’ attention. Granted, sometimes SMS spam is sent to mobile phone numbers which are randomly generated by software programmes, but on other occasions it appears on your phone because someone, somewhere, has sold your personal details without your consent.

The practice is abhorrent: SMS spam is being sent because claims management companies, lawyers with questionable motives and a myriad of other organisations which have no regard for the rights or welfare of the public are trying to drum up business. They amount to another shoddy practice in an industry which is in desperate need of reform.

At the same time, then, as it tackles referral fees in PI claims, the government should act to end the unauthorised sale of personal information. SMS spam is unethical and contributes to the rise of our unfortunate ‘compensation culture’. The government should act immediately to toughen its enforcement with steep penalties for non-compliance, but meantime, please read the guidelines below on how to deal with SMS spam from the Direct Marketing Association and endorsed by the Motor Accident Solicitors Society.