SMS marketing to be hit by legal challenge

Text message marketeers left with fewer characters than Godot...

Text message marketeers left with fewer characters than Godot...

The use of SMS as a marketing tool could be severely hampered by government plans to control corporate usage of electronic communications. Under the 1985 Companies Act, organisations are required to include their official registration details on letters and other written communications. But the government is planning to extend the law to email and SMS - the latter being particularly problematic. The maximum number of characters currently possible in an SMS message is 160. The average length of full registration details will account for much of the character quota: company name, address, registration code, details of the countries in which the company is registered and a list of all company directors (if any are referred to in the main text) must all appear. Eversheds lawyer Jonanthan Armstrong questioned the DTI's intentions towards the 1985 companies act. He said: "Directors and any officer within an organisation could be criminally prosecuted if a message went out without complying and most people wouldn't want a criminal offence, particularly one that relates to running a limited company, on their record." Robert Hamilton, chief technical officer at SMS marketing company Scan, said: "There must be some sort of opt out option included in the revised act, or SMS messages will be 90 per cent irrelevant information and 10 per cent message." Hamilton said the SMS industry will have to look for loopholes to get around the new law. "Consumers are probably a lot more comfortable using this medium than the DTI believes," he said. Potential ways to avoid the limits imposed by the amendment include text messages that carry a simple code to provide a link to more detailed information held online in a centralised database that carries all company information. Dave James, an administration manager at Companies House, the DTI agency behind the 1985 Companies Act, said: "It is highly likely the act will change because electronic [communication] is becoming more the norm than the exception."