Verizon Kills 4INFO Text Alerts

Updated with more short code details and comment from Verizon: The nation’s largest wireless carrier has blocked a major offering from one of the nation’s largest text-alert services. Verizon Wireless Friday night informed its customers via SMS that they would no longer be allowed to use some ad-supported services from 4INFO, a San Mateo, Calif.-based startup. 4INFO users received the following text:

“Verizon users will no longer receive messages from 4INFO at 44636. You are unsubscribed from all programs & will not receive further msgs.”

The move applies only to 4INFO’s self-branded service and short code; the company’s other offerings — which include white-label services — are unaffected. While 4INFO operates 40 short codes, the move applies only to the 44636 code, which is used to deliver 4INFO-branded content as well as content from partner brands. It stems from Verizon’s policies regarding in-text ads, 4INFO CEO Zaw Thet told me Friday, although it appears no other text services — from 4INFO or any other player — have been dropped. Verizon representatives have not been available for comment, but 4INFO users have been actively voicing their displeasure via Twitter.

Verizon and 4INFO have a contentious history: Thet last year was an outspoken critic of Verizon’s effort to impose a 3-cent fee for each vendor-generated text sent to Verizon users. Thet called the hike — which was aborted amid a flurry of criticism from content providers and messaging companies — “unprecedented and unnecessary.” While the two incidents appear unrelated, Verizon may be sending a belated and not-so-subtle message not to provoke the carriers who are the backbone of the mobile industry.

Updated: Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson today told me that the move to block 4INFO’s service was in response to customer complaints, however. Nelson said Verizon has been working with 4INFO “for several months to correct a number of problems” including compliance with Mobile Marketing Association guidelines regarding in-text ads and premium double opt-in requirements.

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