Get ready to opt out of junk phone calls, faxes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am

Hongkongers will be able to block annoying advertising text messages, prerecorded phone calls and promotional faxes from next year but there is still no quick-fix solution for junk e-mail.

The enacting of the second phase of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance would ban commercial electronic messages with three do-not-call registers - for fax, SMS and pre-recorded phone calls - in phases starting from tomorrow. All 14 million fax and phone numbers in use in Hong Kong will be able to register to block advertising messages by dialling the hotlines at any time except between 11pm and midnight.

Senders of commercial electronic messages would be in breach of the ordinance if they continued to deliver messages to the numbers in the list after the bans came into force next year.

But a register would not be set up for e-mail users to reject spamming, the Office of the Telecommunication Authority said yesterday.

'Overseas experience reveals that such registers can become a goldmine for professional spammers,' said Ofta director Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen. 'It is more realistic not to set it up.'

Assistant director So Tat-foon said the nuisance caused by junk e-mails could be resolved by making an 'unsubscribe' request to the message senders.

According to the ordinance, all commercial electronic messages are required to provide an unsubscribe facility for their recipients and to provide information of the source of messages.

Mr So added that under the ordinance, the subject of a commercial e-mail must not be misleading.

'If an e-mail sender was a promotion of product or service, it could not write 'Merry Christmas' in the e-mail subject title,' he said.

Ofta figures revealed that the regulator had received 1,420 complaints since the first phase of the ordinance was enacted in June, with 658 directed at e-mail, 560 at fax and 202 at other communications such as SMS.

Mrs Lai said most subjects of complaints did not fall under the regulations in the first stage of the ordinance but they would be in breach of the ordinance starting from early next year.

Leung Siu-cheong, senior consultant of Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team, a watchdog on internet security under the Productivity Council, agreed there should not be a register for e-mail users.

'Unlike phone calls and faxes, the cost of spamming is zero and a register listed with all valid e-mail addresses will be very attractive to overseas hackers,' he said.

End of the line

How to sign up for the Do-not-call Register and stop unwanted faxes, SMS and pre-recorded messages


Register from December 22

Call 1835002


Register from January 8, 2008

Call 1835001


Prefix 2 and 3 numbers

Register from January 25, 208

Prefix 6 numbers

Register from February 12, 2008

Prefix 9 numbers

Register from March 4, 2008

Call 1835000

using the fax machine and phone of the relevant number