Text-to-donate still a huge rip off [updated]

You’d have thought that as we are almost entering the year 2011, the UK mobile industry would have collectively got it’s act together regarding text donations.

Alas no.

This ad is currently running on Southwest Trains and is aiming to raise money for ‘Our Heroes’ — that is, the British Forces Foundation serving wounded troops.

The ad’s headline reads ‘Buy our heroes a drink’ and encourages people to text ‘heroes’ to the 70099 shortcode which will cost £3 plus a standard network message. A good headline. Start with the average cost of a pint (or at least the cost most of us would like a pint to be) and then the £3 donation sounds eminently reasonable.

The ad’s footnote points out that at least £2.67 of your £3.00 will go to the Foundation. The rest of the £0.33 goes to the networks and the service providers. Shame on them. It’s downright ridiculous that text donations aren’t subject to some kind of fixed nominal fee — 5p or something like that. 33p is simply crazy. It’s worse from Virgin Mobile though, as the ad points out: Virgin customers will see a full 75p of their £3.00 spunked up against the wall by their operator. I wonder if that’s because Virgin want their share along with whatever network they’re currently piggybacking on top of?

If you ever find yourself wondering why the industry is actually rather backward, text donations are a perfect example. Obviously if you’re donating to the Tsunami Appeal or anything high profile, the operators and the value chain will selflessly waive all fees. But in the cold light of day, anything that’s unlikely to attract mainstream media attention is whacked for it’s pound of flesh by each player — from the operator to the various service providers involved.

There are excuses galore. It’s quite costly to manage the whole billing and collections. We have to pay for the equipment. We have to fund our connection costs. All that jazz. It doesn’t wash. It never has.

Another year goes by. Nothing changes. Highly disappointing.

If you do get the oppportunity to donate a few quid to Our Boys (and Girls) in the Services and, er, of course, the mobile industry, text ‘Heroes’ to 70099. I’ve just done so. (Spend it wisely, Vodafone.)

Update: See the comments below from Chris that points out Vodafone takes zero cut (good man, Vodafone), o2 takes a flat 3.1p per message, whilst the rest of the operators still demand a huge chunk.

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