Hong Kong will implement new ordinance to control unsolicited electronic messages, the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) announced Monday.
The new regulation, dubbed Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance, will be published in the Gazette on Friday and implemented in two phases to regulate the sending of commercial electronic messages.
The Ordinance would regulate all messages advertising or promoting goods or services and were sent by electronic means, such as pre-recorded voice messages, faxes, e-mails and messages through short messaging services (SMS) or multimedia messaging services (MMS), said Marion Lai, deputy secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology of the HKSAR government.
All these messages with a Hong Kong link, such as a message sent to a Hong Kong telephone number, received in Hong Kong, or sent or authorized by a person in Hong Kong or by a Hong Kong company/organization, would be regulated by the ordinance.
The first phase of the ordinance, which will come into effect from June 1, would cover the use of unscrupulous techniques to reach out to more recipients, such as the supply of list of electronic addresses harvested from Internet webpages, or the actual use of address harvesting software to capture email addresses for sending commercial electronic messages without the consent of recipients, as well as other techniques such as " dictionary attacks" or "brute force attacks" commonly used by spammers.
The maximum penalty for these offenses is a fine up to 1 million HK dollars and imprisonment up to five years.
Fraud and other illicit activities related to the sending of multiple commercial electronic messages, such as hacking into computers to send commercial messages or use of zombie computers to send commercial electronic messages, would also be prohibited from June 1.
These types of illegal activities will be handled and investigated by the Police. The maximum penalty is a fine of any amount as determined by the court, and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
The second phase of the ordinance, which will come into effect by the end of 2007, will establish the rules for sending commercial electronic messages. For example, the following would be prohibited:
* Sending pre-recorded voice messages to telephones with calling line identification withheld;
* Sending commercial electronic messages without providing a way for recipients to opt out of receiving further messages;
* Continuing to send commercial electronic messages to a recipient despite his/her unsubscribe request; or
* Sending commercial electronic messages to an electronic address listed in the do-not-call registers, unless the consent of the registered users of those electronic addresses has been obtained.
"Under the second phase, people can register their phone, fax and SMS/MMS numbers in a 'do-not-call register' to notify all senders of commercial electronic messages that they do not wish to receive such messages, " said Lai, adding that the exact commencement date of phase two would be decided later.
Lai said that the ordinance would not cover person-to-person telemarketing calls.
"The Government, however, will closely monitor the situation and will consider whether to bring these calls under the ambit of the ordinance if such calls cause serious problem in the community in future," Lai said.