EghtesadOnline: In line with a recent push to regulate Value Added Services (VAS) delivered via text messages in Iran, the Communication Regulatory Authority has issued a mandate requiring mobile phone operators to set up a website through which subscribers can view, change, or block such services which they have subscribed to.
VAS is a popular telecommunications industry term for non-core services, or in other words, all services beyond standard voice calls and text messaging. Major VAS options offered in Iran are text-message based contests and polls, missed call alerts, sports and news services and mobile advertising. The last has been an utter nuisance for users and many have called on authorities to ban text message advertisement altogether or regulate it.
“It is illegal for telemarketers and mobile operators to send automated texts without express consent from the consumer,” CRA chief Hossein Fallah was quoted as saying on the ombudsman’s website. Moreover, he says personal numbers are not allowed to be used for offering VAS.
Mobile phone users, he said, must always have the option of opting out even after they have subscribed to a value added service. According to Fallah, operators are required to jointly set up a website through which users can view, change, or cancel the value added services they have subscribed to, according to Financial Tribune.
Furthermore, users must be informed about costs of each service and the operator must secure users’ stated consent before starting to send the text messages.
Fallah further notes that companies offering content delivery services through text messages must acquire permits from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
While implementation of such regulations should help offer mobile phone users some solace, ISNA speculates that text message adverting will soon be replaced with robocalls since the ombudsman has not regulated such services yet. Robocalls are automated telephone calls which deliver a recorded message, typically on behalf of a telemarketing company.
>How to File a Complaint
The new mandate is part of a push by the CRA to regulate text message advertising. It launched an automated system in November 2017 through which subscribers can register complaints against the irritating ads which many consider as spam.
Through the system, users can register a complaint with the CRA against the phone number of irritant ad senders by sending the number to 195 via a text message. According to Fallah, CRA on average receives 300 compliments every day.
Furthermore, 3,000 advertising phone numbers were blocked by the CRA during the first week after the introduction of the automated system.
Earlier the telecoms minister took to his Instagram account to say “The CRA has sent warnings to numbers that have caused inconvenience for mobile phone users through their text message ads.”
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi censured local mobile operators for disregarding the calm and tranquility of users. Each operator has provided Unstructured Supplementary Service Data codes (USSD codes) through which they say users can get rid of the advertisement messages but the system does not function as claimed.
Unwanted text message advertisements have always been a nuisance for cell phone users in Iran. The CRA’s recent push has renewed mobile phone users hope that soon they might be able to get rid of the always present distractions for good.