Customers plagued by false advertisement calls

VietNamNet Bridge – One day, Nguyen Thu Hoai from Hoang Mai District, Ha Noi received a phone call from a strange number. The caller claimed to be a staff member at an English centre in Ha Noi and told Hoai that her child had been awarded an English scholarship. Hoai was surprised because her child had never participated in any competition held by this centre. The caller said that she knew of Hoai’s child’s English skills through their school.

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Mobile phone users complain that they are annoyed by unwanted calls from advertisers everyday. — VNS Photo Thai Ha

When Hoai took her child to the centre to register for the course, it turned out the only free course on offer was a single demo class. More surprisingly, hundreds of other students also received the “scholarship”.

“After the demo class, the centre persuaded parents to register to pay for a course. It is obviously cheating,” Hoai said.

Her experience is a common one—and becoming more so. According to a survey by the Viet Nam Competition and Consumer Protection Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, between 2011 and 2015 up to 18 per cent of customers reported being annoyed by unwanted advertisements. According to lawyers, this number has increased from 2016 until now, growing to include not only marketing calls but also outright misleading ones like the one Hoai received from the English center.

Statistics from the department showed that in the first seven months of this year, the customer service office of the department received more than 30 reports from customers complaining about cheating calls and social network messages.

Though the call from the English center was particularly duplicitous, Hoai has also received marketing and advertising calls from enterprises, educational centres and beauty service firms.

A woman named Mai in Ha Dong District, Ha Noi, told Thoi Bao Kinh Doanh (Business Times) newspaper that in one day she receives two to three calls from different branches of a beauty centre.

“I refused to buy several times but they still kept calling me. They even called me three times a week talking about similar content,” she said.

Stalking for profits

According to financial experts, phone call advertisement is an effective sale channel. In Viet Nam, this sale method is becoming more common, especially in insurance, banking, finance and service.

Many enterprises hire advertising agencies to develop advertisement campaigns. These intermediary agencies must call customers many times. “If they call ten people, one to two of whom buy products, it is considered to be a success. Although we know we are disturbing customers, we still stalk them,” a staff of an intermediary agency said.

However, phone advertisement has developed from plain annoying to seriously fraudulent. Many callers take advantage of the service to cheat customers by "selling" a product and demanding customers give them money before they deliver the product, which never actually arrives. Customers have been cheated out of amounts ranging from hundreds to hundreds of millions of dong.

The leaking of customers’ information to manipulative spam callers is blamed mainly on the mistakes of businesses.

Lawyer Nguyen Ngoc Tu from the Ha Noi Bar Association said that information provided by customers to a company must be protected by in order not to violate customers’ legitimate rights and benefits.

However, enterprises fail to follow regulations on information security. Some even sell customers’ information.

There are thousands of websites and pages on Facebook, zalo, viber which sell customers’ lists professionally categorized into different sectors.

Businesses need to pay—in some cases, to pay quite a lot—for lists consisting of thousands of potential customers each.

According to Customer Protection Law, entities that disturb customers through advertisement against customers’ wishes more than two times, or that undertake behaviors that hinder the work and life of customers, are subjected to fines of VND10 to 70 million (US$435,800-3,100).

Lawyers advised that customers who are disturbed by advertising calls must report these cases to authorized agencies. To limit unwanted calls, customers may use phone number verification and blocking applications. 


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