Cold calls are not only a nuisance, they’re also ineffective

The vast majority of people in Hong Kong are fed up with unsolicited marketing calls, yet the government is doing little about it

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 11:44pm

When something is deemed a nuisance by nine out of 10 people and is bothering almost everyone on a daily basis, there is every reason for better regulation. Regrettably, the government is still tiptoeing around the problem, saying it should first consult the public on the way forward. We are talking about those unsolicited marketing phone calls that people have to put up with day after day.

It is astonishing to learn that Hongkongers are bombarded by at least 210,000 cold calls from dozens of companies each day, according to the latest survey commissioned by the government. The percentage of people having received such calls rose 10 points to 94 per cent over the past seven years. More than one-third said they received six calls or more a week, up from 8 per cent in 2008. The percentage of those who find the calls a nuisance rose 15 points to 96 per cent. Only 20 per cent of the respondents said they would not immediately hang up, down from 46 per cent. As few as 4 per cent said the calls had brought them benefits.

Unlike pre-recorded promotional calls that are regulated by law and gives people the right to opt out, person-to-person marketing calls are not. With thousands of people directly and indirectly employed in telemarketing, officials may think that legislation is a step that requires careful consideration. But as the survey shows, about 30 per cent of the jobs are outsourced to the mainland. Besides, few customers make transactions over the phone. The success rates were as low as 5-10 per cent. Perhaps companies should reflect on whether there are better ways to reach potential customers.

Countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia have set up a do-not-call register for people who do not want to receive person-to-person marketing calls. The findings show that public response to cold calls has become increasingly negative and that it is no longer a cost-effective way to do business. We trust officials do not need another consultation to tell them what to do.