Dealing with SMS Spam

Ireland has one of the highest mobile phone ownership rates in the world. Mobiles are with us more than any other piece of technology, and we have a more personal relationship with them than with any other piece of electronics. Studies have shown that this is one of the reasons people get particularly annoyed when they receive unsolicited commercial SMS messages. This SMS spam invades what we have learned to think of as a personal space. So what can we do to stop it?

You have a few options if you receive SMS spam. The easiest thing to do is to delete the message. However, this does not stop you from receiving more messages from the same source in the future. Nor does it stop the SMS spammer from bothering other phone users.

Tell Your Network

For a more effective remedy, you can forward it to your network. Except for 3 (who don’t currently offer the service), all the networks have a free-text number you can forward a spam SMS to. Files on the spammers are then collected and forwarded to RegTel and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Those numbers are:

O2: 50455
Vodafone: 50005
Meteor: 50002

Make a complaint yourself


RegTel is a body set up to regulate premium phone and text services. The RegTel code of practice on SMS services says:

• All premium SMS/MMS Services must have prior approval from RegTel

• Service providers, or any person or company acting on their behalf, must not send ‘unsolicited’ (spam) text messages

• Consumers must have the right to ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ of any service. They must also be given information on how to unsubscribe free of charge. Under an EU Directive, consumers must not be have to pay, in order to unsubscribe from such a service.

• Service providers, dependent on the type of ‘opt-in’ service, must issue a regular ‘opt-out’ message.

• Premium SMS/MMS must carry the service provider’s mobile number.

• Where a service includes more than one message to complete the transaction, the total costs must be given.

• Where multiple messages are required to complete a service, the service provider must give the consumer the cost details in the following format: ‘€ 2 x 3’ or ‘EUR 2 x 3’. Promotional material for premium SMS/MMS must only relate to the authorised service.

• SMS “Chat”, “Flirt”, “Contact” & “Dating” services must adhere to the relevant components of the RegTel Code of Practice.

You should make a complaint within three months of receiving the SMS. After that, it is left to the Regulator’s discretion whether or not to investigate a complaint.

RegTel’s main sanctions are to disrupt or end a particular service provider’s activities, if they find there has been a breach. They can’t provide for compensation to the person who got the spam message, or fine the spammer.

The Data Protection Commissioner

The Data Protection Commissioner enforces the European and Irish laws which ensure that your personal information is only used in the manner which you intended.

If you receive a spam SMS and want to complain to the Data Protection Commissioner, your complaint should include as much of the following as possible.

• Your name and postal address (other contact details optional).

• A copy of any SMS messages you received.

• The date and time of receipt.

• Your number.

• The number from which the message was sent.

• A declaration that you have not consented to receiving such communications.

• A declaration that you have not been a customer of the sender or, if a customer, that you have instructed the sender not to send you SMS messages.

• A copy of any instruction given to the sender not to send SMS messages (or make calls) to you, if there was any.

• A statement that you wish to make a formal complaint.

• A statement that you will be willing to give evidence in court relating to the complaint.

• A statement that you will be willing to give a statement, if requested.

Appearing in court, if it gets that far, will not cost you anything other than your time. It is possible that a statement would be accepted instead of your personal attendance, so that not even your time would be affected.

The spam complaint can be emailed to:

Or posted to:

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner
Block 6, The Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1

The Data Protection Commissioner can prosecute spammers. The maximum fine is €3,000 per spam message sent. (Alas, no compensation is paid to the person who received the spam message). If even a small proportion of the spam messages sent in Ireland resulted in fines, it would quickly become uneconomical to send them, and they would die out.