Vodafone moots plan to counter bogus callers

Vodafone is considering sending out 12 million text messages to warn its customers against being conned into calling a premium rate number by bogus messages.

The mobile phone operator is concerned the messages will damage SMS, which is being used increasingly as a marketing tool.

The rogue messages contain warnings such as “Important, please call”, followed by a number with the prefix 09 or 070. Even though the line is dead when rung, callers are still charged a premium rate.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone says: “This is something we are concerned about because it’s annoying customers. We’re doing all we can.”

Oftel, the telecoms industry watchdog, is consulting network operators about the messages and will decide whether to make new policy announcements over the summer.

A spokeswoman says companies using the 09 prefix without warning that it is a premium rate number are breaking the law. But, those companies using lines with the 070 prefix are exploiting a loophole in the law as they are not required to warn consumers about the cost of the call.

None of the mobile companies sell their numbers to third parties, but it is thought companies use software to send text messages to randomly generated numbers.

Andrew Hughes, co-founder of the Wireless Marketing Association, says: “If these numbers get into the wrong hands they can damage a very powerful marketing tool.”

Orange says it is aware of the problem and handles complaints individually. One 2 One says that its customers have not experienced problems with the messages.

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