HANOI, Mar 20, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) — Vietnam’s mobile phone users are having to cope with increasingly frequent advertisements sent as text messages to their phones.

The proliferation of mobile phone spam has prompted some to call for more effective measures to protect phone users.

While many are now used to their email in boxes being flooded with spam, electronic junk mail sent to mobile phones poses a new level of intrusion by advertisers who promote a wide range of services, including fortune-telling and marriage consultancy.

Nguyen Hai Ha from the University of Transport in Hanoi said he finds mobile phone span to be highly annoying.

I get so angry when I receive any spam SMS, said Ha. There are days when I receive more than 10 unwanted SMS messages with the same content, saying that I won an award worth 50,000 VND (2.9 USD). If I reply, I would lose 15,000 VND (0.8 USD) without receiving anything to pay for the reply.

Many others also find this form of advertising unethical and unwelcome.

When I was riding my motorbike to work, I received a message but when I opened my phone, it was a spam SMS advertising fortune-telling services, says Hoang Manh Hung, a businessman in Hanoi.

These types of messages cost me a lot of time. I think authorised agencies, particularly mobile phone network service providers, should apply better measures to strictly punish those who send spam SMS.

One reason for the boom in mobile phone spam is that cheap SIM cards are abundant on the market, creating favourable conditions for advertising companies to send ads to users by SMS at a low cost.

A SIM card worth 50,000 VND includes 160,000 VND in credit on the mobile phone account.

MobileFones PR manager Tran Thuy Hanh said the company would cancel the account of any content providers who send mobile phone spam. Many other mobile phone services providers have pledged to protect consumers interests but this is easier said than done, as the senders of spam SMS can be very difficult to track down.

A representative from Viettel, the army-run telecommunications company, said the company had cooperated with digital content providers to ban the sending of mobile phone spam from numbers with advertising codes.

Clients could protect themselves by registering a call-blocking service to prevent spam SMS, he said.

In order to help prevent mobile phone spam, the Ministry of Information and Communications compiled a circular on preventing spam, which took effect last month.

Under the regulation, SMS advertisements must carry a code and provide methods for phone users to opt out of receiving their ads. Advertisers must stop sending the text messages within 24 hours of a receivers opting out. It a business keeps spending the spam to customers who have opted out, the business will be punished.

Vu Quoc Khanh, director of the Vietnam Computer Response Team (VNCERT) under the Information and Communications Ministry, said the team was working with the ministrys inspectorate to check content providers and inspect contracts between content providers and mobile phone service providers.

Those content providers who are found violating regulations on spam would be strictly punished, with their spam advertising revenues at stake, said Khanh.

For serious violations, a business must take legal responsibility, he said.

The ministry had increased inspection of businesses involved in SMS advertisements and actively handled registrations by some advertising companies to allow them to send SMS ads legally, he said.

It has also increased information dissemination to raise awareness among the public and businesses on the new anti-spam decree to encourage businesses to abide by the regulations.


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