Bill to fight spam set to be introduced by July

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong is moving a step closer to protecting people against spam e-mail, unsolicited text messages and pre-recorded phone-call adverts with a bill due to be tabled to the legislature for approval.

Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping said yesterday the proposed law would be introduced before July.

However, phone users can still expect cold calls from salespeople, with the minister saying legal sanctions against such promotions would affect small businesses. Spam e-mails from overseas would also remain unchecked in the absence of an international protocol.

A two-month public consultation this year attracted about 80 submissions, with most in favour of legislation to stamp out unsolicited commercial promotions.

Under the plan, people could put their names on a 'do not call' register and lodge complaints if they continued to receive them. Offenders would be subject to a fine of $100,000.

Mr Wong conceded that some people might think the plan did not go far enough.

'There have been calls to ban cold calls by salespeople as well, but this practice has existed for a long time. We believe it's appropriate to leave some room for small and medium businesses,' Mr Wong told RTHK radio.

Telecommunication Authority figures show there were 42,462 complaints about junk faxes last year. Inquiries about promotional phone calls surged from 427 in 2004 to 3,622 last year. Another 1,116 inquiries have been received in the first four months of this year.

Meanwhile, Mr Wong dismissed concerns over increasing mainland control over Asia Television (ATV) in light of shareholding changes.

The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing has urged the chief executive to reject ATV's bid to sell 22 per cent of its shareholding to the mainland's Citic Guoan Group.

Mr Wong said the application for the shareholding change would be handled in accordance with procedure.

He said the changes should not affect ATV's obligations. 'ATV and any television station in Hong Kong will have to follow all the requirements and ensure that its editorial and programming policy must be focused in Hong Kong, and must be in the interest of the Hong Kong community and no other place,' he said.

Mr Wong also said he would handle the public broadcasting review with an open mind.

'I hope the review committee will put up recommendations which will command the broadest consensus in the community.'