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It’s been that time of year again, the season of goodwill and a time for giving, for caring, for understanding, and for tolerance. And for receiving…

So what did you get for Christmas? If, like me, you’re an O2 customer, then you will have received lots of text messages pimping out its ’12 Days of Christmas’ iTunes-related marketing campaign. 

Unfortunately, you’ll have received these messages whether you wanted them or not.

Now, I can deal with the cold weather, annoying consumers barging past me to seek out discounted high street treasure, and wall-to-wall bad TV. But I can’t deal with the fact that a mobile operator is unable or unwilling to remove me from its marketing list. It’s a marketing basic.

Everybody loves a giveaway, in theory, although you couldn’t pay me to download the freebies. I’d sooner choke on urea than listen to Snow Patrol, Robbie Williams or JLS. But the point isn’t about context and targeting, but simply that I asked O2 to stop sending me marketing messages months ago. I should never have received these messages in the first place. It’s spam, and after 10 consecutive days of spam I’ve had enough.

The messages themselves include the legally mandatory opt-out: “To stop SMS, text STOP to 81145”. The trouble is that O2 takes no notice of these texts.

Apparently (and oddly) the opt-out system “takes a few days to process”. Not so… I first texted the opt-out number on 1 September, and again in late December, and more recently I’ve been resorting to profanity. Has O2 really been ignoring customer opt-out requests for four months?

Anyhow, it turns out that I’m not alone. I checked out the O2 Twitter feed and noticed that Father Ted creator Graham Linehan has been complaining too. It looks like the issue is widespread. 

A deeper look at the bad noise on Twitter reveals that a hashtag has been created (#stopthespamtexts), and there are lots of complaints from aggrieved customers. Here's a sample:

@eggboxrobin: Another day, another spam text from @O2. I've given up with saying 'stop'. I suppose they think they're above the law. Way to go!

@bradwarwick: I'm plotting to send @o2 a poo in the post for every unsolicited spam SMS they send me.

@utonador: @o2 how can I stop your daily spam texts when I am no longer a customer of o2? I can't use the 81145 text number.

@thamuhacha: Daily O2 spam #o2fail

@gunzalis: Getting a little bored of the unsubscribe fail from o2's January spam SMS.

@mholgate: 11am and another daily spam SMS from O2 with no way to stop it

@JohnyMoz: Yet more spam texts from O2 with lies about being able to opt out by texting 81145. I WANT TO OPT OUT GOD DAMN IT! @o2 #o2fail

@bradwarwick: @o2 STOP F***ING TEXTING ME YOUR IRRITATING SPAM!! How many times have I got to text stop and call your customer services?!

@thamuhacha: Is everyone else sick to death of O2 and their days of Christmas spam? Is each STOP SMS costing me money? #O2fail

@daveisanidiot: i don't really need an #itunes12daysofchristmas text message from @o2 everyday.

@DanielBrydon: Huge @o2 fail. Keep getting marketing SMS daily. Have text 5 times to say "STOP" but they continue. 3rd call to CS- been lied to& hung up on

@hollyseddon: I have texted STOP to 81145 about 27 times and still #O2's text messages plague me. Someone make them STOP! Please!

@alister667: @O2 #O2spam Arrrggghhhhhhh! LEAVE ME ALONE. I've texted stop to 81145 till I'm blue in the face. I'm leaving yer network because of this.

@nomagnolia: @o2 I want no more sodding texts about iTunes to 07789003093. Have texted STOP to 81145 repeatedly & I STILL GET THEM. STOP STOP STOP.

@chrispople: Aargh how do I stop these pissing O2 Free iTunes texts? I've tried replying STOP, texting 81145, AND STILL THEY COME!

@metabrew: I texted STOP to 81145 multiple times, stop spamming me with texts @O2! Don't want your stupid iTunes freebies.

The takeaway here is that you need to get your house in order before launching a marketing campaign, especially an extended one like this, and more so when you have millions of customers. Some rudimentary checks should be done in advance (in this case the opt-out system needed to be tested). Customer services staff must be informed of upcoming campaigns and alert to any problems, which should be reported.

I have no beef with O2, which has provided me with a hassle-free service thus far. But any firm with an active Twitter account must be listening, and we know that the problem has been spotted. Why it hasn’t been fixed - especially in the face of customer fury and churn - remains a mystery. 

The last word goes to Felix Cohen, who directed the following tweets at the official O2 Twitter account:

When will the texts from @o2 end?! Why did they send them out? Awful bit of marketing.

RT @o2 Unfortunately it takes a few days for the opt outs to process. >> That's incredible. WTF does it have to do that takes a few days?

@o2 could you please just end this crappy marketing promotion now. Enough already, jeez, I never asked for this shite to get sent EVERY DAY.

@O2 No response to my messages @ you over the weekend or this morning? Nice.

O2 replied (and remember that it can answer every single message it receives, if it wanted to):

@felix_cohen We get a lot of tweets in and so aren't always able to reply - the iTunes 12 Days promotion is nearly over

Felix then told it like it is:

@O2 I'm so glad. How was it ever allowed to happen? Spammy texts, awful content, broken opt out. Way to treat customers like dirt.

It looks a little bit like internal communications at O2 are a little bit broken. If social media teaches us one thing, it is that customers expect service and action in the face of complaints. Inaction is insane. 

Chris Lake

Published 4 January, 2010 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (29)

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Keir

That's nasty!

I feel like most of the mobile companies in the UK act as if they're 'above the law'. It drives me bonkers!

I'm still being chased 2 years and 15 letters later for monies supposedly owed to O2 for a service contract incorrectly opened in my name. They even confirmed the mistake by letter!! Suffice to say, I changed suppliers.

*end of my 2 cents*

almost 7 years ago

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Edu

I ported my number from O2 to 3 Mobile. One month after having succsessfully ported my number, I started receiving O2 Spam again. WTF? Luckly, it looks like that they finally fixed that...

almost 7 years ago

Matthew O'Riordan

Matthew O'Riordan, CTO at Econsultancy

I have sent 4 unsubscribe messages now to no avail.  I even tried an unsubscribe with some swear words but that didn't seem to change things.

Nice work O2, love your work.

almost 7 years ago

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Brad Warwick

This was incredidbly frustrating over Christmas. I sent STOP three times in the end, called their customer services and was told that the STOP command wouldn't actually work (to which I was pretty amazed to be told so plainly) and then resorted to my very frustrated abusive tweets as shown above. Even after apparently being removed by their customer services, I still received the 12 days promotions. I've threatened to cancel our business account (7 handsets at present) and have still not received a single acknowledgement. I'm interested to see what their public response to this debacle is - if they have the courage to do so. If not, I'll be cancelling our account.

almost 7 years ago

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Justin Hayward

Very strange this, none of us here received these spammy texts and we've been with o2 for over 18months. This is a bit of a shocker. However more frustrating is that i wasn't receiving any texts or service on certain days!!

almost 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hey Justin,

A couple of people in the office didn't receive them either, so I'm not sure exactly what's going on, or how they've determined who to send these messages to.

You can have mine if you like...!

c.

almost 7 years ago

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Tim

I'm on 02 and never received these text messages over Christmas - is it because I got my phone via Carphone Warehouse?  Just curious!

almost 7 years ago

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Nick Hill

I made one of the sample comments above. As a footnote I first texted STOP to 81145 on August 20th. When I rang their call centre yesterday (the call totalled about 40 minutes) I was initially told that the texts were from Apple and I'd have to contact them (?!). I finally got O2 to accept they were the originators, and they "took me off the list". Needless to say, I got another of the messages today.

Fail, fail, fail.

almost 7 years ago

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Neil Hughes

Thank goodness someone else has noticed - I've cracked and sent multiple STOP messages and even resorted to a desperate pleading with the automated number even though I knew it was surely being ignored.

It's got to the stage where I have loudly vowed to leave O2 if I get another spam text, I went to find a contact email, number or form on their website but found they required multiple logins for the different areas (seriously, three separate logins O2?!) and in the end I gave up.

I like O2 in general, but this is just shoddy and I'm seriously considering switching when my contract comes up in a few months.

Or sooner if they spam me anymore!

almost 7 years ago

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mac

02 are as dumb as a fencepost... they know that spamming people is unacceptable (they even have a reporting mechanism on their site for customers to report spammers)... to spam your OWN CUSTOMERS has to be the shittiest thing i've seen a big dumb company do in a long time... unbelievable...

i to have gotten their spam... i to don't want it... i to was forced to use the 'unsubscribe' number... i to got no removal having done this... i to phoned to complain... i got an email back saying it would take 28 fucking days to remove me from their spam list...

i was so mad i tried to contact someone with a brain at 02 thro' their website... ever tried it?... it's impossible to talk to a human... so, i tried their parent company telefonica... i went thro all the hoops to get to the correct page, write the email complaining about their bastard child company, pressed the 'send' button... got a 404... JFC!!!...

02, go fuck yourself

almost 7 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

You couldn't make it up. These are the same people continually "enforcing" draconic rules on legitimate mobile marketing providers and their clients, who would not dare ignoring STOP requests for a minute, and much less for "days"! Great way of ruining both their own brand and damaging the wider mobile marketing community.

PS It's not a first. ATT in the US sent all their customers an SMS to "watch POPIDOL" a few years back I believe.... at least they only send one!

almost 7 years ago

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Daniel Brydon

I am one of the twitter commentors above too.

Sending texts to 88145 failed to stop the messages. I called customer service, who told me I had the wrong number and to text to 8115 instead. This was clearly a lie to get me off the phone, as 8115 is not a recognised number.

I called a second time and was hung up on, when on hold.

The third time I called I was pretty agitated and the lady went away and came back saying she had "unticked a marketing box at her end" and the message should then stop. So far so good.....

Don't be fobbed off - ask for tick to be removed in SMS Marketing box!

Dan

almost 7 years ago

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IGMorrison

Stick your toe in the social pond, and be prepared for a wave - be it good or bad to come rushing back. O2 should know better than to ignore negative comments like these.

Surely a brand of their calibre knows that the brand is only as strong as it's weakest link, and these are golden opportunities to turn around disgruntled customers into brand advocates?

Even a forthright apology via all social feeds (and possibly even another unsolicited text apologising for those who were receiving marketing messages in error) may have gone some way to restoring some goodwill? Instead, they chose to bury their heads, and hope it goes away. Fail.

Here's hoping they don't do a Habitat and blame the intern...

almost 7 years ago

Rowan Gormley

Rowan Gormley, Founder at Naked Wines

The most amazing thing...is that when I emailed them to tell them to unsubscribe me, they told me it can't be done without a password "for my protection"

WTF do I need to protected from their spam!?!?!?!?

almost 7 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Been with 02 for 9 years now, never a problem and i too didnt receive any unsolicited spam texts. 

If you ever need to get in touch with 02 FAST dial 402 from your phone (its the GOLD/SELECT customers preferential line) 

almost 7 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

Do you think this could have been associated to a bit of complacency over the iPhone? Knowing that they had a killer handset exclusively for a while, they may have thought they could get away with lower levels of customer service.(?) That may be a bit judgemental but now that the iPhone is available on a few other networks and soon to be on all of them (I will be getting one on Vodafone when available on Jan 14th) I think 02 should be very careful as they are losing their biggest USP!

almost 7 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Ive got an Iphone but no iphone contract as i buy my phones outright (its much cheaper long term) 

Maybe thats why i didnt get any texts? 

almost 7 years ago

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Adrian

I've been with O2 for nearly 6 years and didn't get any messages from them. Neither did my iphone owning partner. Maybe it was because we were both roaming over Christmas?

almost 7 years ago

Robin Houghton

Robin Houghton, Director at Eggbox Marketing

Here's the complaint form to fill in and email to the Office of the Information Commissioner -

https://forms.ico.gov.uk/pecr-complaint.aspx

If we all did this, who knows, O2 might listen a teeny bit.

almost 7 years ago

Matthew O'Riordan

Matthew O'Riordan, CTO at Econsultancy

Another day, another O2 Spam message "O2: It's early the end of our 12 days of free Itunes downloads. But not quite.  So here's your eleventh...."  Like I give a sh*t about your Itunes downloads!

So the count is now 11 unsolicited messages from O2, and 5 STOP messages which have been completely ignored.  Think I'll fill in that form Robin, thanks.

Matt

almost 7 years ago

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Christian Louca

This is a real shame!  Hopefully they were isolated incidents.  It is this kind of error that must be dealt with efficiently, as this will have a negative impact on the customers.  In breaking this trust, it is likely the customer will not return for future promotions even if they are highly relevant and of value.  

I took part in the promotion and had no problems whatsoever.  I knew I was participating in a promotion where I would receive a push message to content each day the gift came available.  

almost 7 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

^ True, but how long would this negative impact last? If any further dealings by O2 with affected customers is managed way beyond anyones expectations it will be forgotten by the end of the week. 

almost 7 years ago

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Flesz

sent their own shitty itunes spam to 7726, and will do everythime I get new spam from them

almost 7 years ago

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Flesz

It looks like it worked. Finally it is nearly 1pm and no spam sms after 12 days...

almost 7 years ago

Robin Houghton

Robin Houghton, Director at Eggbox Marketing

Well it hasn't worked for me. The bloody '12 days of Xmas' has finally ended but now I'm getting other spam from O2. It's relentless.

almost 7 years ago

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sms text messaging

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that mobile phones are everywhere.  It’s important for small business owners to realize how often their customers are using their mobile phones, to talk, to text, even to surf the Internet.

over 6 years ago

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michael

Well done O2 your '' this close to losing a life long customer

over 5 years ago

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Joe T

i have recently joined O2 and am already contemplating leaving them, i have had, and i kid you not, 88 messages saying you are out of credit it 8 HOURS so i topped up, and now i have had 20 messages in the last 3 hours saying your top up is now £10. point me to the nearest o2 official so i can go to his house and murder him

over 4 years ago

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JohnApple

Paoli Office Furniture: How to Possess the Best Office without Spending a Lot

about 4 years ago

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