x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

R u texting at me?

India's new ban on sending more than 100 text messages a day, while well-intentioned, is burdensome. We offer a better idea.

India's well-intentioned new attempt to stop the plague of unwanted advertising via text messages is full of good ideas. A phone owner can now opt out of receiving all or some such ads, for example, and text ads will be forbidden between 9pm and 9am. These are ideas other jurisdictions will want to consider copying.

But there is far less enthusiasm for a new rule limiting everyone to a maximum of 100 text messages a day. For some teenagers, after all, 100 texts before lunch is merely a warm-up.

Unlike the other parts of this campaign against spam texts, the 100-message rule constrains not only commercial senders but everyone; one more government intrusion in a world already full of them.

The justification for this limit is that it will prevent unregistered marketing companies from avoiding the other restrictions and pushing out a steady stream of ads. But we are happy to offer a less burdensome way to do that, through simple pricing:

Let service providers - which are relatively few and accordingly easy to regulate - charge their current rate for the first 100 texts a day, double that for the next 100, and then, say, the equivalent of Dh100 per message after that. Pricing discipline would solve the problem speedily, and any revenue raised could be used to pay for robust enforcement of the laws governing the whole framework of text advertising regulation.