Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Sending of unsolicited messages to mobile phones must be stopped

Short messaging service (SMS) is one of the medium of communication being used commonly nowadays by hand phone users. However SMS can also be used to commit crime and fraud by various parties. Mobile phones are now being blasted with so many unwanted or unsolicited short messages. Unsolicited messages include advertisement-linked messages, contest winning messages, pornographic messages and so on.

Advertisement-linked messages are usually sent by content providers, who are allowed by the service providers to use their facilities. These messages are sent using short code number (five digit number, for example 32568). Some content providers share their short-codes with others (i.e. unlicensed content providers).

CAP has received numerous complaints from people who received these unsolicited messages. Consumers are not happy and ask why these messages were sent to them as they did not authorize their service providers to allow such unsolicited messages. The unsolicited messages are a nuisance. Consumers do not want to go through the hassle of having to open, read and delete the unsolicited messages. The shocking part of all this is that consumers are being charged for these unsolicited messages.

Most often tempting messages that offer cash prizes and messages asking for bank account details are being sent to mobile phone. If one was to reveal their personal particulars, i.e. bank account number to obtain the cash that they have purportedly won, the fraudsters will wipe clean their bank account. Innocent consumers who divulge such information become victim, where fraudsters could use their banking information to access their banking accounts and could lead to unauthorized fund transfers to third party accounts. These messages usually are sent using a mobile phone number to another mobile phone number (also known as peer-to-peer messages).

Irresponsible people are also using mobile phone number to send pornographic related messages to other mobile numbers. This is an offence under the Multimedia Act but action to enforce and stop these messages is lacking. The culprits should be traced and given the maximum punishment so as to be an effective deterrent to others.

Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is aware of this as CAP has raised the matter with them. However, MCMC has failed to come out with strict mandatory regulations to stop these unsolicited messages. Complaints of fraud short messages were also referred to the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of PDRM but no response has been given so far.

CAP calls on the MCMC to immediately come out with mandatory regulations to disallow unsolicited messages to be blasted to hand phones. Service providers who facilitate this and earn money in the process must be held accountable. Hand phone users should assert their rights and demand that they do not want to receive such messages. Service providers have to comply with customer request. The service providers should not allow content providers to use their facilities to abuse and defraud consumers.

Press Statement - 10 June 2011