Friday February 15, 2013
Some mobile content providers fined by regulator, sets tone for better services
Friday Reflections - By B.K. Sidhu
A DOZEN mobile content providers have been fined by the regulator for promotional and spam messages. Perhaps this should be extended to dropped calls as well.
Mobile users are bound to receive at least one or two SMSes or spam soliciting subscription for a particular content service on a daily basis.
And in a week, there could be more than a dozen, and some can be pretty annoying while others downright intimidating. Not everyone is into watching a video clip of hot models or getting a message about some cheap beer somewhere in the city.
Sending out unsolicited bulk messages, especially in relation to advertising, indiscriminately with the use of the electronic messaging system is known as spamming.
Due to numerous complaints from users, industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission or MCMC slapped fines on a dozen companies recently.
Surprisingly, the news went unnoticed, even though the names of the 12 companies and the quantum of fines were spelt out clearly in the statement issued by the regulator.
The 12 companies were fined a total RM260,000 for breaching their licence conditions.
This is not the first time that companies have been fined, and it will certainly not be the last. But in one fell swoop, the regulator clamped down on a dozen and that should send out a strong signal that providers have to be clear and concise in their messages.
In December, the MCMC also slapped a RM20,000 fine on a cellular company for failure to stop a mobile content subscription which was supposed to be for a limited period of time. The company was fined under Section 242 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the fine was based on one complaint.
This time around, the 12 have been slapped fines for failure to comply with the mandatory standards for mobile content services, which is a breach of the licences under Article 2.2 of the standards set by the application service provider class licence or ASP(C).
Of the 12 companies, two were fined RM50,000 each, two RM30,000 each, another two RM20,000 each and the remaining six RM10,000 each. Of the 12, one cellular company was fined on two counts of RM20,000 and RM10,000, and the rest were content providers.
The MCMC said in its statement that the non-compliance of Article 2.2 of the ASP(C) standard licence conditions was an offence under Section 242 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and if found guilty, they could be compounded for not more than RM100,000 or jailed for not more than two years or both.
Whether the regulator will take these companies to court is not known, but it is hoped that the companies would be more prudent in the future.
There is nothing wrong in soliciting subscription, as, after all, it's their bread and butter, but as the regulator says, it has to be done truthfully and in the right manner. Furthermore, users should have the right to reject the messages and should know the cost upfront if there is indeed interest. Companies should indicate their names in the SMSes if they are indeed marketing something.
The fines imposed are really about bringing about some order, because otherwise many subscribers would fall prey to the tactics of some unscrupulous content providers. Although there are many genuine ones, all it takes is a few to sully the reputation of the industry.
Mobile content is going to be more prevalent with the 4G long-term evolution or LTE services, and if these tactics are not curbed, then the situation will only worsen. It is about time the regulator flexed its muscles to set the record straight.
In the same vein, perhaps the regulator should also come down hard on those players that are not doing much to improve the dropped call situation. Say what you may, but there are pockets of the mobile population that suffers from dropped calls.
Although the regulator said it had issued numerous warnings to licence holders to improve the quality of their services, including on the issue of dropped calls and promotional SMSes, it said: “Unfortunately, complaints from consumers regarding the quality of service kept on increasing as the telcos are still unable to satisfactorily resolve the problem.''
Imposing fines is to make the industry better, with the net result being a better quality of service. However, if it is done on an ad hoc basis, then the problem is bound to persist. What is needed is continuous monitoring and enforcement.
● Deputy news editor B. K. Sidhu wonders if imposing fines on players with the worst dropped call rates would help improve the situation.