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LCQ10: Regulation of person-to-person telemarketing calls
     Following is a question by the Hon Dennis Kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (May 24):
     The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (Cap 593) implemented since December 2007 and the Do-not-call Registers established under the Ordinance regulate the sending of commercial electronic messages, but the legislation and measure are not applicable to person-to-person (P2P) telemarketing calls. To further protect the personal privacy of members of the public, the Government implemented in April 2013 the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 (Ordinance No. 18 of 2012), which stipulates that any data user must inform the data subjects and obtain their consent before using their personal data in direct marketing or providing such personal data to another person for use in direct marketing. Regarding the regulation of P2P telemarketing calls, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed the current modus operandi of P2P telemarketing calls, including the industries to which the commercial organisations making such calls belong, the channels through which such organisations obtain the personal data of data subjects, and how far they have obtained the consent of the subjects prior to carrying out marketing activities; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the current legislation and measures in regulating P2P telemarketing calls; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it has plans to amend the legislation and put in place other measures to strengthen the regulation of P2P telemarketing calls, so as to prevent the problem of nuisance being caused by such calls from worsening; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     After consulting the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, my reply to Member's questions is as follows:
(1) and (2) From late 2010, the Government has actively encouraged trade associations of the four sectors (namely finance, insurance, telecommunications and call centres) that had made most of the person-to-person telemarketing calls (P2P calls) to draw up their respective codes of practice on P2P calls, so as to regulate on a voluntary basis the practices in making P2P calls, such as calling hours, revealing the identity of the telemarketers and honouring unsubscribe requests, etc. The trades were also encouraged to promulgate their codes of practices to enhance transparency. Since June 2011, the trade associations of the above four sectors have respectively joined the self-regulatory scheme.
     Since May 2014, the finance sector has, on its own volition, improved its code of practice by requiring telemarketers to take the initiative to provide their names and official contact numbers to the recipients. This measure allows the recipients to verify the identities of the telemarketers.

     In the past five years, the overall numbers of enquiries and complaints related to P2P calls received by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Office of the Communications Authority are as follows:
Year Overall number* of enquiries and complaints related to P2P calls received
(*the Government does not sub-categorise the numbers)
2012 2 010
2013 1 693
2014 1 215
2015 1 472
2016 648

     With regard to the use of personal data in telemarketing, new provisions under Part 6A of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance has prohibited the use of personal data in any direct marketing activity (including P2P calls) without consent of the data subject from April 2013. As at March 2017, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has referred a total of 149 complaints related to P2P calls to the Police since the implementation of the provisions.

(3) We understand that there are concerns in the community on the nuisance caused by P2P calls. There are, on the other hand, diverse views on how the regulation of P2P calls may be strengthened, involving various considerations such as the protection of personal data, undertaking of normal marketing activities, and the impact on the employment of existing practitioners.
     We are now conducting a public consultation on strengthening the regulation of P2P calls to gauge views from different sectors of the community. The consultation paper sets out an analysis of three possible options which are either statutory or non-statutory in nature. These three options are enhancing the trade-specific self-regulatory regime, promoting the use of call-filtering applications in smartphones, and establishing a statutory Do-not-call Register. The public can suggest adopting different options as short-term and long-term measures at the same time, and they can also give other suggestions as appropriate.

     The consultation period is from May 11, 2017 to July 31, 2017. We will carefully consider the way forward having regard to the views received in order to formulate a regulatory approach that suits Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:40
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