Please note: The following information has not been updated since the Data Protection Act 2018 became law. Although there may be some subtle differences between the guidance on this page and guidance reflecting the new law – we still consider the information useful to those in the media. This guidance will be updated soon to reflect the changes.
Spam texts are marketing text messages (also known as SMS) sent to you without your consent.
Not all marketing text messages sent without consent are spam marketing texts. Marketing text messages can be sent without prior consent by organisations who obtained your email address when you bought something from them and are advertising similar products or services. However, these marketing text messages must abide by strict rules regarding their content and provide you with the opportunity to opt out.
What does the law say?
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 cover the sending of text message marketing. This legislation says that organisations must only send marketing text messages to individuals if you have agreed to receive them, except where there is a clearly defined customer relationship.
The ICO can only investigate concerns about marketing text messages from identifiable UK senders. As a lot of spam texts come from outside the UK, the Information Commissioner has an agreement with a number of overseas bodies to cooperate and exchange information to try and stop spam texts that are sent from those places.
What can I do to avoid unwanted spam texts?
- Be careful who you give your telephone number to.
- Don’t advertise your telephone number, for example by putting it on the internet.
- Check privacy policies and marketing opt outs carefully. Use them to tell the organisation not to contact you by text.
What can I do if I’m getting unwanted marketing texts?
If you receive marketing by text that you don’t want from an identifiable and legitimate UK based organisation that you know and trust, you should first follow the opt-out instructions provided on the text – which typically involves texting ‘STOP’ to the telephone number or 5-digit short code shown in the text message. The organisation should then stop sending you marketing texts. Legitimate, well-known companies will offer opt-outs, and in many cases things can be resolved quickly without us getting involved.
However, if you continue to receive marketing text messages from the organisation despite following the opt-out instructions you may wish to report this to the ICO:
You should not respond to the marketing message if you are unsure who it comes from or if it doesn’t come from a company you are familiar with. This is because by responding this may confirm your number is live. You can report receipt of these text messages to the ICO:
The ICO deals with marketing texts. If you are receiving texts that you are being charged for you can contact the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA). They regulate products or services that are charged to users' phone bills or pre-pay accounts.