PTA, Please Save Pakistani Nation from SMS Spammers

SMS marketing is a great and effective tool to disseminate information, update customers and reach out to a larger audience. Unfortunately in Pakistan, SMS marketing is more spam than anything. Each day, countless messages are sent to hapless people who have no option to unsubscribe. We ask this from PTA: why is a free hand being given to spammers?

Previously (back in 2009-10), the authority had plans to implement a ‘Do Not Disturb’ list which would ensure no spam calls/SMS once a user registered with it.

Other countries already maintain such directories and registering is trivial. However, there have been zero developments on it so far.

We should mention that spam messages aren’t restricted to shady marketers. Even telcos are guilty of it. There have been days where promotional messages from my telecom provider have numbered over a dozen. It adds up to a poor customer experience not to mention the constant interruption at work or during times of leisure.

The only step taken to combat SMS spam from PTA was back in 2012, when they announced that service on a SIM would be terminated if more than 200 SMS were sent within a 15 minute period. That step is not a deterrent because bulk restriction is for mobile phone users — as anyone sending more than 200 SMS in 15 minutes gets blocked — but SMS solutions from telcos and online solutions can easily bypass that restriction.

We ask the PTA: why is a free hand being given to spammers?

This has always been an issue but recently, we have noticed a sudden rise in spam messages. Private marketers used to send messages for authentic items. That has changed recently as fraud schemes, fake items, illegal products are also being marketed publicly.

It is now the responsibility of the authorities to stop such messages and apprehend the criminals behind it.

The issue is exacerbated by the casual attitude most people have about privacy. Most of us don’t hesitate in handing out our numbers whether it’s for an item being sold at OLX, getting information about the latest sale at Levi’s and so on. Simply scraping online job boards and marketplaces can net you a sizeable database of people you can pummel with information about your product or service.

The problem isn’t limited to personal carelessness either. Telecom companies share number lists with their partners or their employees end up selling thousands of numbers for small amounts of money. Some of the lists are easily available in the markets as well. Other sources, which leak people’s private information, are registration services in events and competitions.

Unfortunately, once your details fall into the wrong hands, their is no way to stop these spam messages. There’s no option to opt out and it’s time PTA seriously consider curbing this menace of SMS spam that’s cluttering our phones.

Talal is the Editor in Chief at ProPakistani.