LCQ9: Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance
Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, in the Legislative Council today (February 4):
The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (Cap. 593) came into full operation on December 22, 2007. Members of the public who do not wish to receive unsolicited faxes, short messages or pre-recorded telephone messages can have their fax/telephone numbers registered on the relevant registers set up by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA). In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective up-to-date numbers of fax and telephone numbers registered on the registers, their respective percentages in the total number of such numbers, and the number of relevant enquiries received;
(b) of the number of complaints received so far from users of numbers which have been registered on the relevant registers that they still received unwanted types of unsolicited electronic messages, with a breakdown by the content of such complaints;
(c) whether it will further step up publicity activities so that more members of the public will be aware of the registers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(d) of the monthly average number of complaints presently handled by the team set up under OFTA to handle complaints and carry out investigations, and the existing number of outstanding complaints; whether there is any plan to increase manpower in this regard; if there is, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (UEMO), which regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages, has fully commenced on December 22, 2007. Under the UEMO, three do-not-call registers (DNCs) have been established, covering facsimile messages, short messages and pre-recorded telephone messages. Members of the public can register their telephone and facsimile numbers onto the relevant DNC in order to unsubscribe from unsolicited commercial messages. Protection under the UEMO will commence on the tenth working day from the date on which the number is registered onto the DNC. Under the UEMO, a person should not send commercial electronic message to a number which has been registered onto the DNC for ten working days or longer, unless consent has been obtained from the registered user of the concerned number. Senders who contravene the prescribed rules of the UEMO may be subject to the enforcement notice issued by the Telecommunications Authority. Failure to comply with the enforcement notice is a criminal offence.
The specific reply to the question is as follows:
(a) The statistics of numbers which have been registered onto the three DNCs as at January 29, 2009 are provided in Annex A.
In the year of 2008, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) has received 12,706 written and verbal enquiries in relation to unsolicited messages, the UEMO, the DNCs and other related matters. However, OFTA does not have the statistics of enquiries specifically related to the DNCs only.
(b) Since the full commencement of the UEMO to January 29, 2009, OFTA has received 9,309 reports of suspected contravention of the UEMO and dealt with 6,638 reports. Among the reports which have been dealt with, 849 reports of contravention were established and OFTA has issued one enforcement notice and 67 warning letters to the concerned senders. Among these 849 reports, 707 (involving 57 senders) were related to the sending of unsolicited commercial messages to numbers registered onto the DNCs. The breakdown of these 707 reports by the type of message is given in Annex B.
For reports that are still being processed, we are not able to ascertain the number of reports that are related to the sending of unsolicited commercial messages to numbers registered onto the DNCs as OFTA has to collect more information from individual complainants and the senders concerned to analyse the information upon receipt of such reports before we can ascertain the contraventions that may be involved.
(c) The first phase of the publicity programme on the UEMO was launched through various channels (such as television and radio announcements, newspaper advertisements, websites and MTR posters) in late December 2007 to inform the public of the DNCs and to convey to senders of commercial electronic messages the sending rules. Posters and leaflets were also extensively distributed to community centres, secondary schools, universities as well as centres for the elderly.
The second phase of the publicity programme was conducted in May 2008 to advise the public on how to use the DNCs to unsubscribe from unsolicited commercial messages, how to identify commercial electronic messages that may have contravened the UEMO and how to report suspected contraventions to OFTA.
Over the past year, OFTA attended/organised around 30 briefing sessions to educate the public as well as the industry about the UEMO and DNCs. OFTA also published from time to time articles on the subject in newspapers and industry publications.
OFTA will continue these publicity efforts to use various channels to arouse public awareness of the UEMO and DNCs.
(d) In the second half of 2008, OFTA dealt with an average of 740 reports per month.
As at January 29, 2009, OFTA has dealt with 6,638 reports of suspected contravention of the UEMO and there were 2,671 outstanding reports. In processing the reports, priority is given to the more serious cases, for example, those complained senders who attracted large number of reports. OFTA will continue to process the reports in an expeditious manner.
When the UEMO fully commenced in December 2007, there were 8 staff assigned to handle the duties. Since then, the number of staff has increased gradually to the current level of 14. OFTA will review the workload regularly to make sure that adequate resource is made available to provide a satisfactory service to the community.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009