Have you ever been expecting a really important phone call, or in a business meeting, or on a night out, or at a friend’s wedding, and then your mobile rings with an annoying cold-calling telemarketer on the other side firing Cantonese at you like a machine gun? How rude is that? I am not a fluent Cantonese speaker so when I interrupt by saying “Hello” in English, they will ask “Do you speak Chinese?” I usually following up with “Do not ever call me again, I am not interested” and then they would reply “Sorry, wrong number” and abruptly hang-up. The stupid thing is the same companies keep on doing it over and over, not noting down my previous response and leaving me alone, and this point is key.
According to the Exercising Your Right of Consent to and Opt-out from Direct Marketing Activities under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance issued by the Privacy Commissioner, “Despite your consent to use your personal data in direct marketing, direct marketers must notify you of your opt-out right when using your personal data in this manner for the first time. On the other hand, you may require them to cease to so use the data at any time…despite your consent for an organisation to transfer your personal data to third parties for use in the latter’s direct marketing activities, you may at any time require the organisation to cease to transfer the data and to notify any person to whom your personal data has been so transferred to cease to use the data in direct marketing.”
So what’s next? Next time an annoying cold calling telemarketer calls, collect the following details:
- Date and time
- Person name and company represented
- Purpose of call
- Contact phone number, number on the caller ID, and e-mail if possible
- *Optional question* “How did you get my information?” (Every time I ask this they either act dumb, give an obscure answer, or get defensive)
- Explicitly state that you
- Opt-out of all telemarketing from this company and any related companies;
- That you do not agree for your personal data be transferred to any other company; and
- You would like your personal data to be destroyed for their system and any other related system.
If the same party was to contact you again, file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data by filling out their complaint form and sending it by e-mail to [email protected] or fax to 2877 7026. I know this is very long winded and can be a hassle to carry out, especially when we are busy, but keeping track and complaining is one of the best options we have of putting some pressure on the telemarketing companies and informing the relevant government department of the issue.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong government plans to crack down on cold-calling which is good news for anyone who shares my sentiment. The problem is that it will take time to implemented so to push it along I have also been encouraging people to also complain to the Consumer Council. Many people (myself included on some occasions) have criticised the Consumer Council for being a toothless tiger, but they do collect data and have acted on occasions when they accumulate a significant number of complaints. You can call them on 2929 2222 (Monday-Friday, 9am to 5:30pm), fill out their online complaint form, or visit any of their Customer Advice Centers. Feel free to “let loose” when complaining like I have done (although on most occasions it has been in vain).
Another thing we can do in the short term is to register yourself on the government’s Do Not Call Registers. The Communcations Authority has established three registers:
– Do-not-call Register for fax (the Fax Register)
– Do-not-call Register for short messages (the Short Messages Register)
– Do-not-call Register for pre-recorded telephone messages (the Pre-recorded Register).
The Short Messages Register covers SMSs and MMSs sent over mobile network as well as short messages sent over fixed network. The Pre-recorded Register covers pre-recorded voice and video calls. All you have to do is call from the line that you want to place on the list (make sure caller ID is working), dial 1835000, follow the instructions, and “protection commencement date will be the 10th working day from the registration date.” Please note you will need to call multiple times to place the same line on multiple registers. The full instructions on how to register are here. I hope the more people we get on the list, and the more people complain, the greater the importance the government will place on the issue, and eventually annoying cold-calling telemarketers will be a problem of the past.
Update – 23/05/2018: According to the SCMP, questions have been raised about the management and operations at the Privacy Commission due to a mass staff exodus. To add to that, they have apparently all but given up investigating data breach complaints due to a fall in reported cases. There is not much we can do about the former, but if I had realised my rights regarding direct marketing under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance a lot earlier, I am sure they would have had more than enough complaints to keep them busy and occupied.