The Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has directed the country's three mobile phone operators – MTN, Airtel and Zamtel – to immediately limit mobile spam and unsolicited messages sent to subscribers.
In response to complaints from mobile phone users about the growing number of spam SMSes they receive from the operators, ZICTA said no promotional message may be sent between 8pm and 7am. ZICTA said only one promotional SMS message may be sent per day and only promotional SMSes of the same nature may be transmitted each week.
It is the first time Zambia's telecoms sector regulator is limiting the number of spam messages sent by mobile operators to customers.
Mobile operators have over the past year been competing for customers, resulting in increased promotional messages being sent to customers, in a bid to keep them on the networks.
The complaints allege the same text messages are sometimes transmitted repetitively and within a short period of time. Customers further allege messages are transmitted at awkward hours, including late at night.ZICTA said while sending of promotional messages via mobile phones was not an offense, it called on operators to be cognizant of their obligation to deal reasonably with customers.
“Effective 1 September 2011, the authority has directed service providers to allow customers the option to subscribe or unsubscribe to any promotion that may be on offer. The option should accompany any SMS,” said Ngabo Nankonde, ZICTA PR manager.
While most people are familiar with spam e-mails, the last year has seen a sharp rise in the number of spam messages being sent to mobile phones by operators promoting their products and services.
Sometimes, mobile phone service providers have partnered with other organisations to run promotions where they request that users send their name, passport or national registration card numbers, residential address or workplace address.
However, customers have complained that the service providers have not given assurance on the security of their personal information in promotions done for other organisations. In the event of a promotion being run for an organisation, customers claim they were not sure who was keeping the personal details between the service provider and that particular organisation.
Nankonde said that under the current legal framework, the authority now has powers, and the regulatory mandate of protecting the interests of customers has been enhanced by the new law.
The Zambian government, through the Ministry of Communications and Transport, last year enacted a new law, the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act, which enabled ZICTA to punish any erring operator.
Nankonde said service providers have to be proactive and ensure priority is given to the convenience of consumers at all times.
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