[EDITORIALS]Annoying ads unlikely to stopAt one time or another, most people have probably received a telephone call that turned out to be an annoying advertisement. From phone-chat sales pitches (“Darling, do you have time tonight?”) to real estate advertisements offering allegedly great deals, such calls and text messages come to one’s cell phone so frequently that it’s virtual pollution.
A new government policy taking effect on Thursday states that phone-chat ads, and others that are sent by telephone or fax, cannot be sent without the recipient’s prior consent. This law comes none too soon. Advertisers who violate it can be fined up to 30 million won ($29,000). The law even prohibits advertisers from making phone calls to obtain “prior consent.”
Despite these strict regulations, few truly believe that the pollution of “spam” ads will disappear completely. Prior to this, the Information Ministry had banned advertisers from sending a second spam ad to people who’d expressed their wish to be taken off the recipient list after receiving the first one. But that crackdown failed for various reasons, such as the difficulty of verifying whether or not the recipient had refused the call. Advertisers found more clever methods of sending spam, and the laws and systems were unable to keep up. In the end, consumers felt cheated.
The revised law recognizes telemarketing, which is allowed under the door-to-door sales and electronic trade laws, as an exception. But this stipulation has many loopholes, which is another reason we find it difficult to trust the Information Ministry’s assertions that we can rest easy.
Spam is the joint product of slick advertisers and greedy telecommunications service providers. If we do not dig out this problem by its roots, it will keep coming back in different forms. We can no longer expect much benefit from measures that are one step behind. We cannot rely on the Information Ministry forever, especially since it approaches the issue from the provider’s point of view.
It is time for this matter to be looked at from the consumer’s point of view. The consumer protection agency should pay attention to the rights of telephone users, and the Fair Trade Commission should investigate this issue instead of chasing after free newspapers. Annoying ads have taken a new form in this digital age; we must do all we can to nip them in the bud before they become a social problem.