Cambodia: Telecommunications Ministry Bans Unsolicited Calls Advertising Value-Added Services

On July 26, 2021, Cambodia’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) issued an announcement prohibiting all telecommunications operators from subjecting their customers to unsolicited phone calls to advertise any value-added services for which they have not registered. The announcement took effect immediately.

According to the announcement, telecommunications operators may contact their own customers only regarding value-added services for which the customers have already registered or been using. However, the language of the announcement is ambiguous as to whether telecommunications operators may comply with the announcement by having customers opt-in solely to receive advertisement calls without registering for any value-added services. Although the announcement does not clarify what a value-added service is, the term is broadly defined in the annex to the Law on Telecommunications of 2015 as any services provided by telecommunications operators to add value to their basic telecommunications services “by improving form or content of information or providing for saving and downloading the information.”

In the announcement, the MPTC considered these unsolicited advertisement calls as disturbances to the everyday lives of users and therefore contrary to their will. In the same announcement, the MPTC also required telecommunications operators to register any numbers that they use to make such unsolicited advertisement calls.

The MPTC’s announcement cited the acknowledgment by the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) that a number of telecommunications operators have been using various special four-digit numbers to call their customers for advertising purposes and that the operators’ ability to change the numbers regularly makes it hard for customers to block those numbers. Three days before the announcement, the TRC sent public letters to two specific telecommunications operators that are among the biggest industry players in Cambodia calling for them to cease their unsolicited advertisement-calling operations.

Any telecommunications operator who violates this announcement is subject to the enforcement mechanisms and penalties under articles 69 and 78 of the Law on Telecommunications of 2015. Under the enforcement powers stipulated in these provisions, the TRC may, among other things, issue warning letters to operators, order them to pay compensation, or suspend their operating licenses for not fully complying with the requirements of law. The TRC may also temporarily suspend or terminate the employment of specific general managers, CEOs, management team members, or senior staff of telecommunications operators who violate the law.

Both the MPTC’s announcement and the TRC’s public letters generated tremendous public support on social media immediately after they were issued.

Prepared by Pichrotanak Bunthan, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Sayuri Umeda, Senior Foreign Law Specialist

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