Nenaka H Pathirana Deputy Director Consumer Relations Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka
Sending indecent absence, seditious, scurrilous, threatening or grossly offensive text messages
“Every person he himself or by his agent tender for transmission at any message of an indecent obscene seditious scurrilous threatening or grossly offensive shall be guilty of an offence shall be liable for conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand rupees or to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months or to both such fines and such imprisonment.”
What is the prevailing Law?
“Every person who presentably makes telephone calls without reasonable excuse for the purpose of causing annoyance excuse for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience to any person shall by guilty of an offence shall be liable for conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand rupee and in default of payment of such fine imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding three months.”
Plight of those who make unwanted calls
In the case of unwanted calls, Telecom service provider makes the caller aware of the situation (complaint) and advises him/her that continuing to make such calls could be illegal and punishable under the prevailing law. The aim is to prevent further calls being made. If the calls continue, further action may be taken, such as issuing a formal warning or temporary disconnection of telephone service. In serious instances the police may be involved and may pursue prosecution.
Telecommunications industry has been rapidly developing during last decade. This is not limited only to Sri Lanka but is seen all over the world. This revolution in the telecommunications industry in the world has changed life styles of people in many ways and changed their behaviour pattern as well as personal lifestyles.
Presently one task may be accomplished within one second by incurring the cost of a one rupee worth SMS instead of travelling so many thousand kilometres all over the world and spending so many days. This is one achievement of the information era and the benefit we all expected.
However we all must remember the fact that the Telecommunications Network is open for us to freely communicate with others and to enjoy all the facilities associated with the same.
This service should never be used to tease or to annoy anyone.
However we know that many among us do certain types of unethical activities which are punishable under the law. Due to lack of awareness of the prevailing law some among us tend to tease or annoy others by sending unwanted SMS.
However I believe that everyone who is using a telecommunication service should be aware of the legal environment on this issue.
If you receive such a text message on your mobile phone as indicated above, you can immediately report to a police station and lodge a complaint. Police will conduct investigations for you with the assistance of the relevant telecommunication service provider.
It is your responsibility to report this matter to your service provider.
Your telecom service provider will investigate the situation (complaint) and advises the sender that continuing to dispatch such texts could be illegal and punishable under the law. The aim is to prevent further messages being sent. If the unwanted text messages continue, further action may be taken, such as issuing a formal warning or securing a temporary disconnection of telephone service.
In serious instances the Police may be involved and may prosecute.
Tips on handling unwanted text messages
* You can adopt tricks to discourage unwanted text messages
* A large number of unwanted texts are sent on randomly selected numbers where the sender continues to send SMS and annoy the recipient of the text message.
* You should stay calm and try not to respond with any anger or distress or be abusive.
* You may change your number which is one sure way to stop unwanted text messages however there is no guarantee they will not continue in the future.
* However service providers have introduced a range of options / Services which may assist you to manage unwanted text messages (e.g Blocking SMS etc)
You should be vigilant
* Log all SMS by noting the date, time. This helps to establish a pattern.
* Try to think of anyone you may suspect of sending SMS texts.
* Issue a formal warning to the offender, “I will be lodging a complaint with the Police Do not call me again.” Note the date and time of the warning in the log.
* If the messages are of a life threatening nature, contact the Police immediately.
* Consider having you telephone number changed of not publishing on directory.
Do you have any experience of receiving unwanted calls?
Telephones have become apart and parcel of the life of many people and as a reason mobile telephone density has increased from 1.9Mn to 19 Mn during the past decade. This growth is a milestone in the history of telecommunications and everybody enjoys the same in various ways.
However apart from valuable advantages that can be acquired through the phone it is reported to us much harassment is being done many people by misusing the telephone since the users are not aware about the legal environment.
What should you do if you are a victim of unwanted calls?
A large number of unwanted calls are made to randomly selected numbers where the caller continues to dial that number and annoy the recipient of that call.
You should stay calm and try not to show any agitation or distress, if the call is malicious or abusive.
The unknown caller always wants to annoy you hence in order to discourage such continuation you should take following precautions to discourage unwanted telephone calls.
* Do not give your full name when answering the telephone
* Do not volunteer information about yourself, your number or address to unknown callers
* If you do not want to converse with the caller, politely disconnect the call
*Don’t be drawn into an argument that can’t be solved on the telephone
* Let the phone ring more often before answering it. This gives you some control over the stress of answering a call you expect to be hostile.
* Let the phone ring a longer time and have it disconnected automatically and try to repeat it several times to discourage the caller.
What should you do?
* Log all calls by noting the date, time and duration of calls. This helps establish a pattern.
* Try to determine whether the caller is male or female, their approximate age, any accent or if there is any background noise.
* Try to think of anyone you may suspect of making the calls.
* Issue a formal warning to the offender, “I will be lodging a complaint with the Police. Do not call me again.” Note the date and time of the warning in the log.
* If the calls are of a life threatening nature, contact the Police immediately.
* Consider having your telephone number changed to not published e.g. unavailable with directory assistance. If you have an unpublished listing be careful about giving this number out. Changing your number without making the new number unavailable with directory services means it is available with anyone through directory services.
What not to do
* Do not reveal shock or anger, in most cases this is what the caller wants.
A serious telephone call may include:
* A threat to kill or seriously injure a person
* A threat to damage property
* Sexually explicit language, behaviour etc
* If you have received a life-threatening call contact the Police immediately
Services which may assist
In the Telecommunication network there is a range of smart phone services which may assist you to manage unwanted calls, like Call block services. However genuine caller can leave a date and time stamped message.
We experience many people who receive such messages/ calls are reluctant to precede with the case since the requirement of police reports. Anyway you should keep in mind that as a lawful citizen you are free to lodge a complaint at your police station and take necessary actions against people who misuse the telecommunication service.
At the same time it is important to note that under no circumstances personal information of the person who misuses the telecommunication service will be released to any party except for the police (who submit their request with a court order) for their investigation purposes.