Guangdong rejects proposal to register every mobile phone user

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am

Guangdong communication authorities have turned down a provincial CPPCC delegate's request to bind the identities of mobile phone users with their numbers, arguing it is impractical, the Guangzhou Daily reports.

'As the regulation to bind the identity of a citizen with a phone number would affect every user in the whole mobile phone network, no province, region or city has the ability to enforce it,' the Guangdong Communication Administration wrote.

Tong Chun-yip, a delegate to the Guangdong People's Political Consultative Conference and a former Hong Kong actor, submitted a proposal in March urging authorities to verify customers' identities when they purchased mobile phone SIM cards, because he was deeply troubled by insulting calls and messages from unrecognised numbers.

'I have not been cheated yet, but there are many friends who suffered dearly because of mobile phone fraud,' Mr Tong said. 'Binding a phone number with a real name can effectively reduce such crimes.'

Despite the rejection, the administration said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was co-operating with the Ministry of Public Security to enact a regulation to tackle the issue, and it was waiting for approval from the State Council.

'Once the central government releases the regulation, our administration will work actively with other government agencies on implementation,' it said.

But some industry sources said the regulation had been submitted to the State Council as early as 2006, but Beijing had not shown any interest.

Mobile-phone-related crimes are becoming serious as the total number of mainland users reached 540 million last year, many of whom were retirees or farmers in isolated villages who stumbled into the information age only recently.

One of the most popular frauds was called 'one beeper'. A stranger calls a phone and hangs up before it is answered. If the call is returned, it is forwarded to expensive lines that sometimes charge more than 50 yuan (HK$57) per minute.

While many believe an identity verification check could prevent fraud, some argue that the cost would be greater than the benefit.

The biggest opponents are operators. China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile service provider, earned more than 70 per cent of its income from Easy Own, a prepaid card that consumers can buy at stores and newspaper stands in most cities.

Those users, accounting for more than 75 per cent of China Mobile's total consumer base, were anonymous. 'The Easy Own brand will be ruined if identity verification is required. It will be a marketing catastrophe,' a China Mobile employee said.

'It would also be an operational nightmare to collect the personal information of so many existing users, and the cost would be huge. The regulation would provoke a social upheaval far more serious than phone crimes do.'