April 6, 2006
PIMENTEL DISPUTES CLAIM OF SMART THAT TEXT ADS ARE NOT BEING CHARGED AGAINST CELLPHONE USERS
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the sending of unsolicited advertisements in the form of text messages to cellphone users is prohibited by law as he asked Smart Communications, Globe Telecom and other telecommunication firms to completely discontinue this malpractice.
Pimentel said the transmission of the text advertisements is unfair and prejudicial to cellphone holders because these eat up the phone call load, whether through pre-paid cards or direct line connection to service providers.
"Cellphone subscribers have been complaining that their prepaid credits are being diminished everytime they receive such advertisements which they never asked for in the first place," the minority leader said.
In a letter to Pimentel dated March 21, 2006, Rogelio Q. Quevedo, a top executive of Smart said his company "does not charge subscribers for the initial and first info text and network advisories that are not subscribed to by a particular subscriber."
Likewise Quevedo said the initial stop alert sent by a subscriber to prevent receipt of further into text and network advisories are free of charge.
"However, when a subscriber thereafter activates the info text and network advisories by sending an alert on message to the network, fees are thus imposed on such alert on messages. Charges are also imposed on the subsequent stop alert and alert on message sent to a subscriber," the Smart official explained in his letter to the senator.
Pimentel cited the case of his driver who purchased a pre-paid card for P25 one evening, hoping to use the load the following day.
But he said what happened was that the following morning his driver found out that his cellphone load was all gone because it was consumed by the text advertisements which were sent over to him.
"And I am surprised because apparently this is not allowed not only by law but this was even, to my understanding, disowned by Mr. Quevedo," the senator said.
Citing his own experience, Pimentel said he received a text message from a sender, using the number 2150 on Dec. 12, 2005. When he requested that the such messages be stopped, Pimentel said another number 288 texted back: "Thanks for the message. You will not receive anymore updates from ZED. If you change your mind, just send word into 288 to hear about new and cool stuff: ZED."
Pimentel said when one receives a message about an advertisement, they are using a different number. And yet he said when one replies to that number, what would come out would be a message back to him: "You have entered as invalid key word. Below is the list of help key words�"
"In other words, they are making it difficult for the cellphone user to stop immediately such nonsensical messages that are being sent to the cellphone owner, unsubscribed and unwanted," he said.
Pimentel requested the service providers that if they send an unsolicited advertisement, they should give a chance to the subscriber to respond immediately by sending a text to the same number by which the main message was sent.
Pimentel said failure on the part of the service providers to discontinue the sending of unsolicited text advertisements, despite their illegality, would only lend credence to allegation that they are unwilling to forego a money-making transaction at the expense of the cellphone subscribers.
He also asked the proper Senate committee to look into this unethical and illegal practice and perhaps convince the service providers to put an end to it.