06/24/2022

PTA Restricts Promotional Text Messages From Telemarketers

June 23, 2022 – The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has restricted promotional text messages from telemarketing firms which will now provide the recipient with an option in their messages to unsubscribe and stop receiving them, the telecom regulator restated on Wednesday. 

The PTA says that sending messages without consent is a violation of PTA’s regulations and rules surrounding spamming laid out in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA). Section 25 (Spamming) of PECA states, “A person, including an institution or an organisation, engaged in direct marketing shall provide the option to the recipient of direct marketing to unsubscribe from such marketing.” The cybercrimes act makes the offence punishable with a fine of Rs50,000, which can extend up to Rs1 million.

According to PTA, all promotional messages will have the “opt-out” option by July 1, 2022.

On June 17, Head of PM’s Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi announced in an official notification that sharing of user data without consent by telecommunication companies to telemarketing firms will lead to penalties. Sufi said that all technical arrangements pertaining to these measures would be finalised by the end of June. He further added that a user would have complete control over whether they would like to receive advertisements from the same telemarketer.

The government was taking these measures to ensure the protection of user data, added the notification.  

“An opt-in and opt-out system is being implemented by the PTA,” Salman Sufi had tweeted. “With a link to opt out at the end of each marketing message, a customer will be able to put themself on the SMS marketing block list of that specific marketer.”

Earlier, the state telecom regulator said that spam calls and messages can be disruptive to communication, and laid out a list of measures for users to minimise them.

Recently, the PTA found itself at the centre of a controversy after reports started circulating of the telecom regulator replacing the global Domain Name System (DNS) with a centralised one. The reports sparked an outpouring of concerns, with users calling the new policy another attempt to allow a formulated control on the internet and a tool to surveil citizens’ online activities. The PTA, however, released a statement addressing what it termed “baseless accusations” and “lack of understanding about the DNS”. The regulator further added that it has not yet implemented a centralised DNS. 

In response to suggestions that the PTA should adopt a decentralised DNS, the authority said, “It is stated that the DNS is already decentralised, PTA will enforce their policy for blocking of unlawful content as mandated under PECA’s Section 37 across all ISPs/CMOs. Existing process of manual[ly] blocking illegal/harmful content under the law is being automated, hence there is no impact on the internet, quality of the internet, cost of the internet services or does not undermine privacy in [any way].”

 

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