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[January 06, 2014]
Crackdown on telemarketing [Global Times]
(Global Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Illustration: Lu Ting/GT It startles me when my mobile phone rings in the following situations: it's raining cats and dogs as I hurry to a meeting on my moped under a broken poncho; or when I am giving an important speech in a meeting and forgot to put my phone on vibrate.My anger escalates when the caller turns out to be an anonymous salesperson."Hello miss, do you want to buy life insurance? It's a good deal!""Are you interested in a suburban villa for only 2 million yuan ($329,801)?" The telemarketers on the phone don't know that in order to answer their spam call, I almost fell from my moped, or endured my boss glaring at me like a bull at a red rag.According to a survey conducted by the Shanghai Consumer Council, almost all of the 1,500 residents polled said that they have received marketing calls or text messages after giving out their personal information, and 65 percent of respondents said that telemarketers have disrupted their lives after they handed over personal information to companies or stores.The government watchdog has reiterated plans to crack down on telemarketing calls and text messages, and announced a regulation forbidding any organization or person from sending commercial information to customers without their permission. But the continuous stream of spam has proved its failure.To solve the ongoing problem, we need to know who sells our personal information to the telemarketers. According to the survey, 93 percent of customers said they were asked to provide personal information that has nothing to do with what they are paying for.When we sign up for websites, send parcels by courier, or apply for membership of various services, we don't know where our personal information will end up. Sometimes the employees of companies sell our information to others.An employee of YTO Express was arrested for selling the express delivery company's customer information to an online dealer, who sold the personal information of each individual customer for 0.8 yuan to a website, which then resold the information online for 0.9 yuan per person.The watchdog should require companies to strengthen internal management and the protection of their customer information, so that not every employee can easily have access to personal data.Customers are also asked to submit personal information when they apply for membership or register on websites, and these companies or websites often use their customers' e-mail addresses and phone numbers to distribute commercial messages.To regulate their behavior, the watchdog should require companies to let customers opt out of and freely unsubscribe from receiving commercial information.Recently Shanghai mobile phone users have been able to reply "0000" to block spam text messages, but it only works when senders are also based in the city. The national authority should broaden this service to make it nationwide. According to Zhu Jun, the vice director of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, since China does not have a clear definition of spam messages, suspects profit by taking advantage of the legal loophole. Without detailed punitive measures, any law or regulation is feeble.Our national and local level authorities need to enact relevant laws and strengthen the punishment of companies or persons who sell customers' personal information.I hope next time I won't risk my life or a reprimand from my boss to answer a phone call I have no interest in taking.
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