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劉廼強 | 18th Feb 2011 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (26 Reads)

Today I got four unsolicited phone calls, either trying to sell me something or asking me to answer some questions, plus another mysterious one during which I could hear only soft music from the other end. I guess I must have been put on hold while the computer was busy calling another number. This is driving me crazy.

I am not the only victim in town, and such intrusions are getting more frequent day by day. They are annoying, and they cost us money to answer them.

At one time the government was considering banning such calls, but later it made only computer generated calls somewhat illegal. That is why when you take the call, there is usually still a human person on the other side. That also means it costs the advertisers money too, which is no consolation to us at all.

I always wonder where these people get my phone number. After the Octopus saga and other similar incidents, it is no secret that our phone numbers are in the market for sale, probably along with our other privacy. Or the computer can generate a long list of eight-digit numbers beginning with 9 or 6 to dial. There is no way we can find out.

Previously these callers hid their numbers, and many people would not take them. Now more and more companies will unabashedly show their numbers to induce you to answer them. Once I was so furious that I called back the number to complain. What I got was a computer generated reply:

“Chinese, press 1...” Some told me such action was not a very good idea. Like sending back unsolicited fax to unsubscribe, what it achieves is to confirm to the other side this is a valid phone number, and you will end up getting more calls instead of fewer. You just can’t beat them.

It is now to the point that I believe most will agree that we had better put an end to such an irritating malpractice as telephone cold calling. To us this is a downright nuisance, and to the marketers I am sure the success rate is so low, and the negative feelings generated so high that this practice is not quite justifiable. Why don’t they come together and make an agreement not to do this anymore. Failing that, the various chambers of commerce should come out to condemn it. Should all else fail, the last resort is to ban these unwanted phone calls through legislation, though its enforcement is obviously quite difficult.