Vodafone SMS Spam: Illegal or Just Hypocritical?

VodafoneOver the last couple of days, there has been some grumbling on Twitter (where else!) about SMS marketing messages from Vodafone. This is not new. My wife gets a bunch of messages about “best mates” and other add-on options.

Under the current New Zealand “anti-spam” law (aka the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007), any commercial electronic message (solicited or otherwise) must have [emphasis mine]:
[quote]a functional unsubscribe facility that the recipient may use to instruct the person who authorised the sending of the principal message (the sender) that no further commercial electronic messages from or authorised by the sender should be sent to the electronic address at which the principal message was received; and
…the unsubscribe facility is expressed and presented in a clear and conspicuous manner; and
…the unsubscribe facility allows the recipient to respond to the sender using the same method of communication that was used to send the principal message[/quote]
I called Vodafone support (as have others), and confirmed that yes, there is no way to use SMS to unsubscribe from their marketing messages. This is in breach of Subsection (1) of Section 11 above.

Now Subsection (2) of Section 11 of the Act allows for the absense of a same-method unsubscription if there is a contract or understanding in place. Perhaps we’ve signed something in small-print that obviates Vodafone from the need to accept SMS unsubscriptions, but I don’t recall ever doing so.

Even if we have unconsciously opted-out of the ability to opt-out, Vodafone’s position is highly hypocritical. I know first hand that if you are developing a service that uses Vodafone’s SMS gateway (or in fact a third party), Vodafone will not terminate messages on their gateway unless you prove to them that you have a functioning “STOP” message. There is no quarter given, not even for opt-in, government-funded health improvement services.

It’s a bit sad that Vodafone promotes some great services via SMS, but really isn’t playing nice when it comes to their own spam.

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6 Comments

  1. Totally agree with you Ben! Also glad to see the actual wording from the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act. I never really had thought about the effects that this law may have over texting. I’d just considered it from the email point of view.

    I don’t remember signing up for the promo txt messages from Vodafone but sometimes you do these things inadvertently. I really wish that it’d be easier than _ringing_ to get unsubscribed – and tbh, it wasn’t until someone else mentioned that you could ring to get taken off the txt list that I realised there was an opt out option!

    In general I’m a happy Vodafone customer but lately they’ve done a few things that just don’t seem that classy.

  2. Just to play devils advocate…

    It *is* their network, and they’re not charging for the messages.. Doesn’t make it right though.

  3. I’ve asked vodafone over and over again to stop getting these txts, they say that I’m off the list but I keep getting them 🙁

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