Govt launches drive against nuisance calls

Telemarketers now required to ask customers’ permission to continue

A woman in Beijing shows spam messages on her mobile phone. [Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily]

China has launched a national campaign targeting nuisance calls, according to a directive published on Monday.

The campaign aims to consolidate law enforcement and technology to ensure people receive significantly fewer nuisance calls, according to the directive published on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s website.

Nuisance calls cover a wide range of unwanted or unsolicited calls, including prank calls and telemarketing calls.

Led by the ministry, 13 central-level authorities, including the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People’s Court, will oversee the campaign, which will run until December of next year.

Authorities will crack down on acts of illegally obtaining personal information, the directive added.

Local telecommunication administrators are required to step up management over voice communication services provided by telecom and internet companies, and heighten oversight over call centers.

Telecom operators also need to better supervise individual and corporate user behavior by drafting contracts that clearly spell out punishments to be meted out to those engaged in nuisance-call activities, according to the directive. Operators are required to report and intercept calls made using altered caller IDs, and improve the ability to identify physical locations of nuisance callers.

China’s three major telecom operators-China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom-said they are studying the directive to determine the best implementation measures going forward.

Telemarketing call centers are also required to ask customers’ permission before continuing with calls, and the calls themselves can only be made during reasonable hours of the day. Violators will receive administrative punishment if they call customers a second time after first being refused. Telemarketing calls from financial, real estate, medical, human resources and tourist service providers in particular will be strictly regulated in the future, the directive said.

Call centers will also be required to remove software used to make automated calls, while public security authorities are encouraged to crack down on the illegal sale of personal information, especially from those who work in industries including telecom, healthcare, education, property management and logistics, the directive said.

“I receive at least four nuisance calls a day, and I always immediately block the caller. But they use new numbers to call back,” said Zhang Xiaomeng, a Beijing businesswoman. “Everyone around me is very annoyed by such calls.”

Ma Si contributed to this story.