Dealing with text and phone spammers.

The good news: two text spammers to be fined.  Probably wholly inadequate, but better than nothing, especially in terms of sending a message.

The bad news: this is such a rare event as to be newsworthy!

I’ve long wanted to propose a better system.  Give me a single button I can press on my phone to flag an incoming call or message as spam.  If I hit the button then the caller is charged for it: say, £1 per call.  To be operated by the telcos, in much the same way as their regular call charges.  A truly effective way for spam victims to convey our response to the spammers, as the £1s mount up.  Or if the spammers are right and most people don’t mind, then they’ve nothing to worry about.

Of course we need some basic safeguards against malicious (or accidental) use of the £1 button.  A threshold to pass before any charges are incurred.  And there should be no perverse incentives: I don’t get the money, neither do the telcos (though they might take a small administrative charge, to be determined by the regulator).  Any proceeds go to charity (not that there’ll be any: it’s a deterrent)!

It’ll also need some minor barriers to technological workaround: a cost to getting millions of phone numbers and keeping the number of spam messages per number below the threshold, including setting up a telco specifically to create such numbers.

Given that it’s the party conference season, who will offer us an effective protection against these spammers?

Posted on October 2, 2012, in spam. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good idea, but given that most of this garbage comes from overseas call centres that don’t display their numbers (and therefore cannot be identified by the ordinary punter like me) and are outside the reach of UK regulators in any event, it sounds like a Herculean task.

    As a very simple starting point, why can’t BT display the numbers of legitimate overseas callers, like mobile phones do already? Then I could screen out the rogues that hide behind “International” numbers. I do receive legitimate international calls from family, so can’t just block anything called “International”.

    As an aside, the other day I had an “International” call from “the technical support centre of the worldwide web” – I have now introduced the heavily-accented crook at the other end to some choice Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. It’d have been more painful for him if he’d been within reach… regrettably one doesn’t get this opportunity with that even more insidious infringement of our privacy, the “silent call”.

  2. 1 pound is probably too high for such a charge. There will always be some fraction of people who, for reasons of incompetence, malice or whatever, solicit/sign up for calls/messages, and then report them as spam anyway. I know it sounds like a thin excuse, but it does happen. I would suggest something like 20p.

    Philosophically, consensus has always been that an opt-in system is infinitely preferable to opt-out. So a better approach would be to make sure that every phone call, and every text message, are charged for at the moment of completion, and it’s up to the recipient to do something to say “this message may be zero-charged, if the sender has complied with all necessary steps to make it so.”

    Then if the caller has a real commercial relationship with the recipient, they can take steps to recover their money when the recipient forgets. I think that would line up all the incentives properly.

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