Reverse SMS billing

From ArticleWorld

Reverse SMS billing refers to the situation in which the SMS recipient is billed for the SMS rather than the sender. SMSes with reverse billing can only be sent if specifically subscribed to by the receiver. Reverse billing as emerged as an innovative way of earning revenue from the SMS service. Reverse SMS billing is also referred to as “reverse charging”, “premium rate SMS” or “mobile terminated billing” (MT Billing).


Reverse billing services are usually advertised in magazines and newspapers or on websites. Examples of services offered include:

  1. Ringtones
  2. Wallpapers
  3. Daily horoscope alerts
  4. Entertainment services
  5. Sports alerts, like football goal alerts
  6. News alerts
  7. Charitable fund-raising
  8. Weather reports

The revenue generated by reverse SMS billing is shared between the mobile messaging company and the organization that provides the content.

How it works

A consumer takes part in a reverse billing service by sending an SMS containing a keyword to the number (usually a four or five digit short code number) advertised in the media. This first message will be charged normally, and will signal the start of the reverse billing service. The user will then receive the reverse billed message at intervals specified in the advertised material. Typical costs range from about 0.5 USD to 3 USD per message.

Legal issues

In many countries, laws have been passed to the effect that service providers that use reverse billing should allow their customers an easy method of opting out of such a service after it has started. Most often, this is achieved by sending a stop message (sometimes simply the word “STOP”, case insensitive) to the same number that sends the reverse billed messages.

In the UK, Icstis, the premium rate watchdog, recently barred companies from reverse billing customers except from numbers that begin with a designated prefix. This law was passed in February 2006, and has enabled consumers to easily recognize such numbers and block them if necessary. The Icstis also introduced tougher fines for violators.