Icstis is planning to clamp down on anonymous text messaging services that encourage the bullying, grooming or stalking of children because it believes abuse of such services pose a “high risk” to public trust in phone paid services.
The premium rate services industry has come under criticism from Icstis, Ofcom and the Government following complaints about TV phone-ins and quizzes from the public, which have severly dented trust.
The premium rate services regulator is issuing a consultation looking at how regulatory safeguards for anonymous SMS services can be operated. It believes matters must be resolved “with a degree of urgency”.
It is understood that the services are intended for either practical jokes or for dating. Icstis says that companies who operate anonymous SMS services have signalled that around 80% of their revenue comes in the period leading up to Valentine’s Day.
But anonymous services are also used “to send abusive or threatening texts for the purposes of bullying, stalking or making individuals believe relatives or friends have been seriously harmed”.
The regulator says mobile network operators and some service providers believe there are inadequate arrangements in place to identify misuse or forward information on to the relevant authorities. It adds that the anonymous SMS market generates less than 1% of revenue for service providers but the potential for harm is large in proportion to the size of the market.
It says: “It is our opinion, and that of the stakeholders from all parts of the industrywho have provided us with feedback, that anonymous SMS poses a high risk to public trust in phone paid services.”