UNITED KINGDOM—There’s a slight tiff going on between British mobile carriers and Ofcom, which regulates the space. It seems a number of complaints have been sent in to the regulator about sudden rate hikes in the middle of established contracts, a practice that reportedly costs U.K. mobile consumers upwards of £150m a year, which equals about $225m.
In response, Ofcom issued draft guidelines in January, and one provision in particular has resulted in a rather unique warning by one of the impacted carriers, Vodaphone, which pulled out the “porn spam” card to make its point.
The outcry is over one particular provision—General Condition 9.6—which “the phone companies claim would require them to notify customers of changes to any ‘third party’ prices such as premium rate numbers, international calls, 118 numbers and other so-called non-geographic numbers beginning with 08.”
The proposals are just recommendations at this point in time, with a final draft to be rendered by Ofcom sometime in June, but the proposal that carriers "give adequate notice not shorter than one month … to every consumer and small business customer of any price modification” has sparked what the Guardian called “an industry row,” resulting in a warning by Vodaphone that “serious unintended consequences for consumers” could result.
The Guardian explained, “[Vodaphone] said the company did not object to restrictions on ‘core’ price rises within the fixed terms of a contract, but added that Ofcom had failed to realize there was a fundamental distinction between the prices it controlled, which were included in the headline monthly cost figure, and those which it did not control, which were not included in the monthly price.
“Vodafone,” the article continued, “said that under the proposals, mobile phone companies would have to send texts to all their customers—including those on pay as you go deals—regardless of whether they had ever used the service whose price was changing. This would result in hundreds of essentially ‘spam’ texts being sent every year to customers.”
Even worse, such “spam” notifications would by definition include “clearly inappropriate notifications such as advising children of changes to adult premium rate prices or notifying rate changes for obscure international destinations that a customer had never called."
In other words, Vodaphoe is saying it will be forced to porn spam its customers, regardless of age. In the U.K., with its ongoing obsession with the perils of porn, that's like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire. As a result, even if Vodaphone is exaggerating the anticipated burden of the proposed provision, expect Ofcam to modify that particular one with nary a word of complaint.
Ofcom’s draft guidelines can be found here.