SMS fraud affects MNOs more than most. Consumers generally blame them when things go wrong. This is why Telefónica is working closely with MEF on the fightback. Here, Tim Houlihan, commercial lead for A2P messaging development for Europe at Telefónica, explains more.

Operators occupy an ‘interesting’ place in the market for A2P messaging.

In many instances, they act as an indirect channel for traffic, leaving the A2P aggregators to provide the connectivity to brands and enterprises.

For this reason, some operators take a very proactive position on A2P messaging, while others are less engaged.

Telefónica  is firmly in the proactive camp.

The company has published many reports on the status and potential of the space. In 2016, it stated its belief that A2P will continue to grow for at least ten years, and revealed that its own traffic had increased by 22 per cent in a year.

And Telefónica has shown itself to be committed to industry-wide action too. Over the years it has worked closely with MEF on measures to tackle malpractice and fraud in the space.

We spoke to Tim Houlihan about MEF’s Future of Messaging Programme and MEF’s A2P SMS Code of Conduct for industry participants.

What is Telefónica’s reason to back the code of conduct?

Telefónica is, and always has been, committed to protecting our end users and networks from various forms of attacks, spam and fraud.

But we have found that MNOs and subscribers are being targeted more and more by fraudsters through increasingly complex techniques.

A varying degree of these practices are occurring via SMS – particularly as SMS is most people see SMS as safe and relativity spam free. Unlike email, for example.

Therefore, we felt compelled to get involved and support the MEF Code of conduct. It ties in with our own aspirations to keep the A2P ecosystem as clean as possible.

  The MEF Code of Conduct can be a very powerful framework for the industry. Any provider serious about being a good ‘citizen’ should sign up to it. It’s the ethical thing to do. And it’s also good for business. In my personal opinion, those that sign up will have a much better chance of achieving direct MNO connections and launching new business proposals with MNOs than those who do not.”

How damaging is message fraud financially?

It is impossible to put an accurate figure on it, but I would guesstimate that the figure is well north of 100 Million euros annually across the ecosystem.

How damaging is it reputationally?

Good question. This is of great concern to me. As I said, subscribers see the SMS channel as safe, so trust is high. Losing that trust would be quite detrimental in my opinion. We can’t have SMS go the same way as email.

Whether you are an MNO or an A2P SMS aggregator, you have to help keep the SMS service clean. It’s the only way to maintain the appeal to subscribers and ensure businesses keep using A2P SMS for a variety of use cases.

Which are currently the most damaging forms of fraud?

At present, I would say SMiShing. It has the potential to cause monetary hurt and distress to those affected.

The UK market has experienced various issues with SMiShing in the past 12 to 24 months. This has led to the UK banks issuing customer warnings via print and even TV. So even though UK MNOs and banks do have measures in place to tackle such scams, the trustworthiness of SMS has taken a hit in the public eye.

What steps are you taking to ensure there is buy-in across your organisation for the Code of Conduct?

We are holding a session per local MNO to go through the Code of Conduct with business messaging leaders and teams. There are numerous obvious reasons to support it. We can leverage the complaints process and also receive updates on suspected fraudulent activity  via the logging of incidents process. These are very compelling arguments.

How will you identify and punish those who abuse the code?

I am not in a position to give away any details. But I will say that we are taking increased measures to tackle offenders, such as revoking their direct termination agreements, for example.

We also feel that the the independent Compliance Committee that oversees MEF’s Code of Conduct can play a very helpful role in our ongoing efforts to weed out the bad actors in the ecosystem.

What is the potential of the A2P messaging market, and how will this programme help the industry to reach it?

It´s clear that we are living in very exciting times for the market. I think we will see new and innovative solutions for both end users and the brands who leverage them. I am particularly excited to be part of the RCS & MaaP projects here at Telefónica.

The MEF Code of Conduct can be a very powerful framework for the industry. Any provider serious about being a good ‘citizen’ should sign up to it. It’s the ethical thing to do. And it’s also good for business. In my personal opinion, those that sign up will have a much better chance of achieving direct MNO connections and launching new business proposals with MNOs than those who do not.

The Trust in Enterprise Messaging industry Code of Conduct for A2P is available to download now – participation in the Trust in Enterprise Messaging service is open to any stakeholder in the messaging ecosystem.

Find out more about the Trust in Enterprise Messaging (TEM) service and download the Code of Conduct here.

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