If you use your cell phone to text make sure you study your monthly bill carefully to avoid getting dinged repeatedly for unwanted premium text messaging subscriptions.

Premium text message subscriptions provide regular texts like jokes, ring tones, sports scores and more.

Often they are disguised as a free service but as soon as you accept, you are then subscribing to a monthly service and will be billed for it.

They can be difficult to stop and consumers do not have access to the details of the transactions.

The public Interest Advocacy Centre, or PIAC, is doing a study on consumers who have been charged for unwanted premium text subscriptions. The study's author says there are problems with Canada's system and it starts with consumer's cell phone bills.

PIAC says disputing the charges is almost impossible because consumers can't access the details of the transactions.

The Advocacy Centre says as far as it knows no Canadian cell companies allow clients to put a block on premium subscriptions. However, there is no technological reason why they can't.

Other countries, like Australia, require all cell companies to provide consumers with that option as a condition of being allowed to carry and bill for premium text services at all.

Australia also has an independent regulator overseeing the industry.

Tips to protect yourself from premium text message services:

  1. Don't give out your cell phone number to websites, contests, television, or promotional events.
  2. Inspect every cell phone bill you receive carefully.
  3. Unsubscribe from any premium text message service that you did not authorize.
  4. Use the opt-out instructions that came with the first couple of texts.
  5. Send a stop reply to "don't reply" text messages.
  6. Read the fine print before you sign up for or click accept to anything

If you have been billed for unwanted text messages and want to participate in the PIAC study click on the link.

To lodge a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services visit their website.

There is about 500 premium text messaging subscription services currently operating in Canada.