Short codes are special telephone numbers which have been created by the wireless phone industry and are often the source of considerable confusion among new wireless subscribers.

As their name implies, Short codes are significantly shorter - usually 5 or 6 digits - than a regular telephone numbers. They are widely used by the wireless industry for value-added services such as television program voting, ordering ringtones, charity donations and mobile services.

Because messages sent to short code are often billed at a much higher rate than a standard text message, and may even subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service, they are often a source of anger among wireless subscribers who were unaware of the extra cost.

If you have inadvertently signed up for a premium text message subscription service, you can opt-out by texting the word STOP to the originating short code.

Short Code FAQ

The following Short Code FAQ was put together by The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), a trade organization representing the wireless industry in Canada.

What is a short code?

Common short codes used for text messaging are either 5 or 6 numbers long. They are easier to remember than normal telephone numbers. These numbers can be used for mobile subscription services, for television voting or for ordering ringtones, themes or music. Short code text messaging is often billed at higher (premium) rate than standard text messaging (set by the service provider).

What is the difference between premium and standard text messaging?

Standard text messaging is priced by each individual carrier. It is the “base” price paid to send and receive text messages. Premium text messages carry an extra charge in addition to standard text messaging rates. This added fee ranges from $0.15 to $10.00.

How do I sign up for a text message subscription service?

This must be initiated by you, the mobile phone user. It is possible that you might see a short code advertised on TV, on the radio or online. Follow the instructions provided. Usually the instructions are to text message a certain word or phrase to the short code. A free administration message will be sent back, containing the price, frequency of messaging and a web site address for more information. You will often be required to reply to this message to finalize the subscription service.

How do I opt-out of a subscription-based service?

A mobile subscription can be cancelled simply by texting the word STOP to the originating short code.

How do I get more information about the text-messaging service?

To receive more information, text HELP to the short code. The content provider must send one message containing their client’s (or their own) company name and customer service contact information (email, web site address and/or contact number).

How do I get help?

Text the word HELP to the subscribed short code. This will result in a return message outlining: Identity of the program sponsor (name, company name) and a short description of the program; a URL where information can be retrieved in detail and/or other customer service contact information such as email or phone number; cost and frequency of the program; Information on how to cancel the service by texting STOP.

What should I do if I feel that I’ve been charged for services that I didn’t sign up for?

Contact your service provider. They will be able to give you details about your account and the services used on your phone.

Help! I signed up for a service that I didn’t realize I had to pay for.

All advertising material for a subscription-based service must clearly state the cost of the service. After subscribing, the customer receives a free administration message indicating the cost of the service, message frequency and a web site address for more information. Premium subscription services require that you confirm your subscription twice. This is done to ensure that the user is aware of the cost per message, the frequency of messages as well as the opt-out information. The user must take affirmative action to acknowledge the terms of the subscription service. The user must either reply to this message with the promoted keyword (Yes, Ok, etc) or enter the promoted PIN code online in order to confirm their subscription. If you wish to cancel a service, reply with the keyword STOP.

I didn't subscribe to this service, why am I receiving messages?

Typically, messages cannot be sent to a mobile number if the number isn't subscribed. You must “double opt-in” to premium services, meaning the content provider must double-check to make sure its services have been ordered. This is done so that someone cannot inadvertently sign your phone up for unwanted services. On rare instances, it is possible that mobile phone users may be given a number that used to belong to someone else. If a new mobile phone number is obtained, there is a chance that the former user may have subscribed to various text messaging services. Typically, carriers do not recycle numbers for a period of at least 30-60 days. Subscription services are required to remove unavailable clients from their contact lists. If you are receiving unwanted messages, contact your service provider.

What if someone signs my phone up?

Website subscriptions have a handset confirmation stage to prevent this occurrence. Premium text messaging services must double check to make sure their services are wanted. If the subscription is initiated on a website, users will also receive a confirmation message to verify their service. This is done to prevent a person from signing up someone else’s phone.

What if I forget that I have subscribed to a service?

A subscription service is any program that begins with a voluntary opt-in process. Standard or premium charges are incurred by the user for messages received from the subscription service over time. A monthly reminder message is a notice of continuation of the subscription service. This mandatory subscription reminder applies to both standard rate and premium subscription services.

The monthly subscription reminder message should contain:
  • The name of the subscription service.
  • The billing period and applicable cost.
  • Instructions on how to stop the service using the STOP keyword.
How private is my information?

This should be mentioned in the terms and conditions of the text message program. All subscribers must read all terms and conditions before agreeing to any subscription.

Isn’t this SPAM?

No. The Canadian mobile phone industry requires that customers initiate a subscription program by sending the first message to the short code before any messages are received by the consumer.

How do I know I am dealing with a Short Code versus an email-to-text service?

Unfortunately, the spamming community includes some very technically advanced people. Even though our networks use filtering technology and abilities to block the offending internet service providers, it is possible for some limited e-mail spam to reach our customers. If you receive internet spam that is not content related to a text messaging service, save the message and contact your cellular service provider.

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