Consumer Council CEO: “The limit on characters in cellular text messages (SMS) should be removed. This limit on the length of text messages ‘milks’ consumers of unnecessary money, for a service that costs the cell phone companies almost nothing.”
A third of the text messages sent each day are over 70 characters in length, and consumers are charged double for this by the cell phone companies. This charge costs consumers an unnecessary 140 million NIS annually. This data comes from a survey conducted by the Consumer Council in July 2012, through the Geocartography survey company. The survey also showed that 70% of consumers (those without a payment plan) are not at all aware that, when they send a text message with more than 70 characters, they are charged for one or more additional messages.
The text message service (SMS) provided by the cell phone companies is one of their more profitable services. Because the operating infrastructure is very inexpensive, it allows the companies to obtain a profit margin on this service of hundreds, or even thousands, of percent.
The survey showed that about 60% of cell phone customers are still not aware that there is a character limit (70 characters in Hebrew, and 160 characters in English and Russian), and that a long text message is charged as 2 or more separate messages. 45% are not aware that the 70-character limit includes spaces and punctuation marks.
An estimate of the cost for such text messages, to just those consumers who do not have a payment plan, indicates a sum of 140 million NIS annually in excess charges paid to the cell phone companies, a sum that is certainly not insignificant.
Cooperation between the Consumer Council and MK Amnon Cohen has led to a bill being submitted to the Knesset to cancel the character limit for text messages. The bill proposes that text messages be charged on the basis of a rate per message sent.
CEO of the Consumer Council, Adv. Ehud Peleg: “The unreasonable profit margins charged by the cell phone companies for text messages are not an unavoidable ‘act of God.’ They can, and should, be dealt with, through intervention by the legislature and the regulators, in a way that brings fairness into the contractual arrangements between the companies and their customers. The fact that the cell phone market has recently undergone important consumer reforms does not remove the need to eradicate other practices in this area that are unfair to consumers.