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Published on September 11th, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti


Unsolicited Calls: Marketing Without Permission

As communication technologies improve and number of mobile phone subscribers grow in Pakistan, unwanted telemarketing and sales calls and text messages are fast becoming a concern. We have talked about the lack of identity protection measures and almost no regard about one’s personal information in Pakistan before. The recent PTA warning about unwanted and fraudulent SMS was also discussed here. Other bloggers have also written about the marketers who invade people’s privacy and waste time.

ndnc.jpgMany developed countries have taken steps such as “Do Not Call” databases which prohibits telemarketers to call those people who are on the Do Not Call list. Facing pressure from public, India’s telecom regulator has set up a Do Not Call system to fight against unsolicited telemarketers (See this article for details). It will be interesting to see if it can make a difference there. Usually such Do Not Call systems require significant effort to regulate and punish the offenders, which can make it difficult to work in Pakistan.

Another related problem is that South Asia is the home to a large number of outbound call centers. Many of these unsolicited calls in US or Euorpe originate from abroad … often the accent of the callers provides a hint about the location of the caller. I have personally received unwanted calls and text messages from South Asia, and that too at odd hours.

donotcall.jpgWith mobile advertising on its way, this situation will get a lot worse – so brace yourself and take precautionary measures to safeguard your information. First awareness is the key: Pakistani bloggers need to continue to spread the word. Next, take charge of your information. Ask banks, phone companies and other financial institutions about their data privacy policies and demand that they should not sell your data or else you will take your business elsewhere. It MAY work!

The recent issue of FLARE has a good article about the pain of spam sms and unsolicited calls. Excerpts:

With 63 million subscribers currently and growing rapidly every month, telephony in Pakistan is witnessing an unimaginable boom but carries one terrible downside “Unsolicited calls”. Banks are the biggest offenders. Car loans, home loans, personal loans, even loans to pay off other loans, and an unending list of unsolicited calls subscribers receive daily. More terribly, the tele-sales persons have complete personal and private information about subscribers, including name, business and personal contact details, the bank where you have maintained your account, your company name and even balance of your account and the transactions you have made recently.

“Once your cellular number is exposed to tele-marketers, you will find that there are more calls you get each day, furthermore. A notable increase in the ratio of marketing calls will be seen once you have posted a positive response to any package. This gives a clear feeling that these telemarketing companies share their data with-in their departments or even with other telemarketing companies likely to be based on barter system” said Ali Hassan, Senior Professor at a local university. Banks also arrange data from other sources as well; hotels, restaurants, online communities, directories and yellow pages are the big sources.

A survey conducted by Flare revealed that data obtained from bank accounts generates fifty percent of response however these stats showed a fall to only ten percent response when the data was collected from any other source. Survey further revealed that 35 percent of calls receive positive response when the product is long term loan; short term loans normally get 30 percent response. Tendency of response for credit card is seen very minimal that is only or below than five percent.

The story does not end up with just voice calls but the bundle package includes text messages floating on to your mobile phones. Despite of the fact that these calls may not be that money-spinning activity for tele-marketers, decreasing tariff plans are fanning the fire with more affordable calls and text message rates, hence the number of telesales calls is increasing with each passing day.

Telemarketing calls involves privacy invasion and identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information to take on that person’s identity. This personal information can even be of your cell number or email address. Thus sharing this information and using it for any marketing/commercial purpose comes in the segment of Identity Theft. This Identity theft is considered as chargeable illegal offense in many countries but not in Pakistan unfortunately.

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  4. saqe says:

    All of that discussion was focused on marketing calls at your mobile phone, what about land line numbers?

  5. Pingback: State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan » How To Get Back At Telemarketers

  6. Pingback: State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan » SMS Marketing And Subscriber Rights

  7. Babar Bhatti says:

    From Financial Express, India: Over 230 million telecom subscribers in India now have the option of opting out of tele-marketing calls and apparently more than six million, predominantly urban users, have already taken up the offer. The new directive that allows subscribers to list their landline and mobile numbers under the National Do Not Call database and opt out of receiving any unsolicited commercial communications (UCC), including SMS (short messaging service) has found many takers

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