India Uncut

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Don't want credit card, don't want SIM card!

The Times of India reports what I already knew to be true: mobile phone companies have now started aggressive telemarketing, following on from banks. So where earlier I was offered 'free' credit cards and interest-free loans, now I'm being offered SIM cards. All these calls come to one's mobile phone, of course, so one can't even bang the damn thing down.

All these spam calls incur a cost, disturbing us in the middle of whatever we're doing. Therefore, they effectively amount to theft. It is outrageous that these junk-callers actually defend these practices, as Naveen Chopra, the chappie from Hutch, does in the ToI story by saying that they have an opt-out policy in place. That is like saying that if you do not register your name with the Pickpockets Federation, then anyone has a legal right to pick your pocket.

As I'd written here, there should be an opt-in policy for such telemarketing, and if you do not agree to have your name on such databases, they shouldn't call you. As with anything else, consent should never be a default.

Update: Arjun Swarup writes in:
What you wish is for is actually a legal reality in the United States, in most states. In mid 2004 Indiana implemented a law, which actually lets anyone call into a toll free number, and asks you to enter your number. Once you do that, it asks if you want to be off limits to telemarketers for 5 years, or forever, and you choose either option. I did that, and never received a single call after that.

Why cant we have similar legislation in India ? Blame the constitution. Our attitude towards legislation is idealistic, not pragmatic. We simply have not adopted a system - at any level, which is equipped with, designed for, or empowered to, be a proactive citizen-friendly state. [Emphasis mine.]
Bang on.

Actually, the Indiana example is still opt-out and not opt-in, but at least it's easy to do. But I'd rather see companies work on opt-in schemes at their expense than have the government enable opt-out schemes at the taxpayers' expense. That's still theft, if indirect.

Update 2: Reader Vimalanand Prabhu writes in to point to examples of "Do not call registries" in the US, such as this one. Sadly, I don't think victims of telemarketing are a big enough voting bloc to matter right now in India. We've got to do something ourselves, to incentivise corporations to band together and create opt-in schemes, or to disincentivise them from such telemarketing. But what?

Update 3: Patrix emails to point me to another such registry.
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