Sending out an SMS

Sending out an SMS

With the recent removal of SMS marketing from our Refreshed Direct data offering, we thought it’d be a good time to investigate what has caused the walls to close in on this method of marketing.

In reality it’s the age old story of a few bad eggs spoiling it for the rest of us. The SMS campaigns fulfilled by Refreshed Direct have always been very successful for our clients – to the extent that we were developing our own SMS broadcast platform – but the continued ‘pestering’ of other SMS-based messaging solutions gave the governing bodies little choice but to clamp down on the rules and regulations surrounding SMS marketing.


Many UK consumer data owners fear the potential repercussions of consumer complaints following the sale of their mobile telephone data and the requirement to monitor whether the entire down-chain has acquired the correct consumer permissions for the data will be off-putting to many.

We have all, no doubt, received unsolicited text messages (SMS) relating to accident claims, debts, pensions or mis-sold PPI. The Direct Marketing Association believe that some of these messages are being sent by lead generation companies – companies that are trying to find people who will respond so they can sell that data to claims or debt management firms. In most cases they believe the companies sending the messages are just randomly generating mobile telephone numbers and sending several thousands of texts in the hope that a proportion may reach the mobile phone of someone who has recently had an accident – or been sold a financial product – and who will then reply.

The ICO investigates complaints and prosecutes when there is enough evidence to do so – up to now this hasn’t really been seen as a deterrent, but in July 2014 the rules were changed to make it easier for Ofcom to share information with the ICO on companies breaking the law and this is already helping the ICO’s efforts to take preventative action. In April 2015 the Government agreed to amend the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) to make it easier for the ICO to intervene and fine any ‘spamming’ companies.

The potential nail in the coffin for SMS marketing came when an Enforcement Notice was brought against Optical Express in December 2014. Thousands of people had complained about SMS marketing messages being sent by Optical Express after the company obtained a list of contacts from Thomas Cook. These Thomas Cook customers had consented to third-party marketing, but the exact types of products that would be marketed were not made clear.

The key points of the ruling were:

“when a data subject gives consent they must be informed about the processing to take place, including who by and what for. In no other way can consent be said to be ‘informed’”.

“If the data subject doesn’t know what products might be marketed then how can he exercise his right to object?”

With these legal changes, the requirement to name the processors of third-party data agreements and the pending changes to the EU Data Protection Regulation, several consumer data owners have decided to withdraw the sale of mobile telephone numbers for use in SMS campaigns. Those that haven’t are expected to within the year.

So, while one door to market may well be closing in the not-so-distant future, there are plenty more ways in which Space & Time Media can help you target very specific audiences both online and offline. We can still reach consumers through mobile-specific display networks, via specialist suppliers like Weve and by using optimised, managed search and social campaigns. And why not visit to access cost-effective, highly targeted B2B and B2C postal and email data?

Space & Time Media – smarter media for a connected world.

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