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UK networks team up to fight text spam, next up: nuisance calls

EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three have teamed up with industry body the GSMA to combat spam texts and are looking to take on nuisance calls too.

The major UK networks -- EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three -- have teamed up with industry body the GSMA and the government's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to combat spam texts.

The GSMA's 7726 service -- that's "SPAM" on old numerical keypads -- lets you forward dodgy texts you've not signed up for. It's been around for ages, but now the networks are onboard, they can share the data and better control what gets through the net.

"The real-time information about spam attacks we are now receiving from the UK operators is helping us to quickly identify breaches in the Privacy of Electronic Communication Regulations, track down perpetrators and issue monetary penalties against them," said ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley.

"Our estimates, based on data from the Spam Reporting Service, suggest that as many as 516 million unsolicited SMS messages were received in the UK in the second half of 2013 and with an estimated 99 million received in February 2014 alone," said Neil Cook, CTO at Cloudmark, whose tech is behind the reporting service. "We're proud to be powering the industry’s response."

"This reporting tool means we can help prevent nuisance texts being sent to our customers," an O2 spokesperson says in a statement. "Now that all operators share the spam text information with each other, it offers greater visibility on what spam activities are happening and allows us to disconnect offenders quickly."

The networks, along with the ICO, are looking at expanding the service to tackle nuisance phone calls.

"It's good news the GSMA is raising awareness of this service to help consumers who regularly contend with the scourge of unsolicited texts -- which is a widespread problem," said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com. "According to uSwitch.com research, more than two thirds (68 percent) of Brits get unwanted text messages they cannot unsubscribe from -- almost a quarter (24 percent) at least once a week.

"Unsolicited texts are only part of a much bigger problem. The suggestion that this service will eventually be extended to nuisance calls is an exciting prospect."