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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Qatar’s telecoms watchdog plans tough action on mobile spam

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For illustrative use only
For illustrative purposes only,

Qatar’s telecoms regulator has pledged to take stricter action against companies that bombard residents with unwanted marketing messages, amid ongoing complaints about spam on mobile phones.

The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) is drafting a code of conduct that it said would beef up existing guidelines for companies that use text/SMS messages and applications such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype to reach customers.

This new code is still in the early stages of being drawn up and will take input from consumers and industry representatives before it is finalized, a CRA spokesman said.

The watchdog hopes to create a more rigorous set of rules for companies to follow, including introducing “compliance measures,” the CRA official added, although he did not comment on whether penalties would be involved.

Mobile spam has long been a source of ire for residents. In 2011, Ooredoo (then Qtel) began a spam-blocking service and at the time said businesses could face sanctions for spamming customers.

Mobile spam
Mobile spam

Then in 2013, it launched a feature on its mobile app that allows users to block senders by phone number or company name, although in the initial stages, it met with mixed success.

While the service blocked some senders, it did not stop new senders from contacting would-be customers.

Also that year, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) put guidelines in place outlining what types of messages can be sent to an individual without their explicit consent. Under those rules, permission is still required even if the recipient has a publicly-available telephone number.

However, these provisions only pertain to messages sent by SMS and email, and they are not currently enforceable with penalties.

https://twitter.com/naqvi_aqib/status/595896949447884801

The CRA was established last April under Emiri Decree as an independent regulatory arm of ictQatar and is responsible for telecoms, access to digital media and the postal service.

Its remit is to enforce the Advertising, Marketing and Branding Code, introduced September, as a means of improving transparency in telecom marketing campaigns.

In its latest statement, the CRA said it is monitoring the level of complaints about mobile spam, and is looking at bringing in “additional mechanisms and regulatory enforcements that will further clarify the use of telecoms services.”

Blocking spam

The CRA said that it is in talks with Qatar’s two telecoms service providers to address the issue. Until it can roll out what it describes as “stringent measures,” the watchdog has reminded residents how they can stop spam messages.

Oooredoo customers can block numbers by doing the following:

  • Text “Unsub ServiceName” to 92600 or if you want to stop all bulk SMS senders, just send “Unsub all” to 92600;
  • Block an unknown or spamming sender via Ooredoo’s mobile app.
  • Block an unknown or spamming sender via Ooredoo’s helpline (111) or website.
  • Report cases via social media channels – Facebook and Twitter.

Vodafone customers who receive spam and scam messages can:

  • Block an unknown or spamming sender via Vodafone’s helpline (111) or website.
  • Report cases via social media channels – Facebook and Twitter.

Residents receiving spam via Skype, Viber or WhatsApp are advised to report and block the offenders using the app. Repeat offenders can be blocked by contacting the service provider, CRA said.

Ooredoo has previously warned customers against giving out their mobile numbers in stores or when filling out questionnaires, which it said is a sure-fire way of getting added to mobile marketing lists.

“Customers go shopping, and when the cashier asks to fill in a form to either sign up for their loyalty program, be notified of discounts, add a phone number and email to account right before payment, customers give their mobile number.

If the retailer is part of a large chain, that number is then passed on to all their retailers. This is one of the primary ways customers end up getting Spam SMS from these companies,” a company spokesperson previously told Doha News.

Do you receive lots of spam messages? Thoughts?

14 COMMENTS

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sfdsdf
sfdsdf
5 years ago

What about the spam from Ooredoo themselves, I can not opt out, I never had the option to opt-in or not.

Student
Student
5 years ago

“This new code is still in the early stages of being drawn up” This is my cue to stop reading.

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago
Reply to  Student

Mulling….

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Doha – the mulling capital of the world 🙂

Misha
Misha
5 years ago

Finally there is hope at the end of the tunnel!! The sms messages are so annoying! The blocking app helped reduce them but new ones keep popping up. I stopped giving out my number after I made the mistake of giving it to debenhams once. They seem to have a sale/offer every month and feel the need to tell you about it multiple times!

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

Well I hope they hurry up, I travel a lot so receiving them while roaming costs me money. It’s a disgusting act

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

This is only true with greedy european telcos. With Ooredoo you pay nothing when you receive calls and text while roaming

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I think you need to start checking your bills more closely and stop believing everything you here….

Doc
Doc
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Do you actually live in Qatar or ever travel if you do?? You pay for receiving and sending calls and international rates for messages. You can pay QR100 to get 100 minutes of roaming.

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago

I get spammed by OOredoo themselves with thier sms about their money transfer service. I have received around 5 or 6 of these messages in the last 6 months.

Jamal Al-Yafei
Jamal Al-Yafei
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Yacine this is not considered spam if its 5~6 times in the last 6months ..

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  Jamal Al-Yafei

I never asked for it, so even if they send it once it is still unsolicited. And if they were honest they could have added at the end of the SMS how to unsubscribe, the same way some charities do it to cancel regular donations

greg
greg
5 years ago

If the retailer is part of a large chain, that number is then passed on to all their retailers.
Find a way to punish the retailer. Thise are personal information, i do not want them to make money selling our info

Jamal Al-Yafei
Jamal Al-Yafei
5 years ago

ooredoo started using Flash Sms ( Class 0 ) it shows only on ur screen when u close it there is no evidence they send it to you , a really cheap way from ooredoo .. they can spam you as much as they want and you cant complain about it as there is no proof 🙂

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