Orange SMS spam dragnet ensnares unwary
Mystery message blocking
Orange is blocking text messages sent through a UK premium service, citing "security issues". But the British SMS provider appears to have fallen foul of Orange's new allegedly anti-spam policy of charging foreign networks for sending bulk messages.
Register readers using a premium SMS service provided by Deltica.com have been charged for messages that were never received because it resells Swisscom SMS capacity, which offered the cheapest service in Europe, and is one of the blocked providers.
Orange told aggrieved Deltica.com punters that was "deleting text messages that are sent from certain companies and countries" because of "security issues", and that it has notified the affect companies.
It referred customers back to Deltica.com, but the firm isn't responding to queries from us, nor its customers. We've been contacted by two Deltica.com users on the issue who decided to use the service because they found the (free, up to a point) process of sending messages through Orange's Web site "slow and long winded".
Neither customer is a SMS spammer (bills sent to us suggest) and Orange's stance seems to be driven primarily by commercial considerations.
Simon Rockman, publisher of What Mobile, explained: "I don't think they are so much blocking spam, more blocking interconnect when they don't get a revenue share (which often amounts to the same thing as spammers don't like to pay). But if a spammer was prepared to pay I'm sure Orange would carry it. Indeed Orange business services has a tariff for such things."
The Orange policy of blocking SMS messages from certain foreign networks was introduced in December but not publicly announced at the time. We understand that MTN network in South Africa, the Swisscom network in Switzerland, and the Telstra and Vodafone networks in Australia are among those targeted, along with SMS messages sent via ICQ. Most overseas providers aren't affected.
After repeated calls, Orange at last provided us with a "re-active statement" on the issue.
"Orange has decided to take this step to protect its own customers from 'spamming' through overseas carriers. This will also enable Orange to better
manage its network traffic, and ensure it gains revenue for the service it provides by carrying these messages," it said.
"We intend to reach a standard agreement for this service as formulated by the GSM Association. Commercial terms will be agreed bilaterally."
Orange's policy is reasonable enough but is has been less than open about its implementation. This has been conducted in a manner which, our enquiries suggest, is pulling ethical users into an 'anti-spam Dragnet'. ®
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