Scaremongering, teleshopping programmes abusing the pandemic situation and radio interferences – the NMHH receives an increasing number of reports

Published: 24 April 2020

The number of complaints submitted to the programme surveillance service has increased by nearly three-quarters in the past month, but the number of reports on radio frequency interferences and those received by our Internet Hotline has also increased 1.5 times over the same period of last year. A new element in these submissions is that more and more fake news and objectionable teleshopping windows have been reported. However, the specialists of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) can still adhere to the deadlines despite the changed working conditions and the increased workload.

More reports from mobile operators, and teleshopping windows has become disturbing

During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of radio frequency interferences reported to the NMHH has increased 1.5 times compared to the same period last year, which is also 29 percent higher than the figures in February. Not only have the number of interferences increased, but an additional factor is that mobile operators may be monitoring the seamlessness of their services more closely considering the increased traffic and they may report heir findings more frequently. The increase was mainly a result of reports from mobile operators.

The Authority has received 72 percent more complaints in programme surveillance during the pandemic than in the month before or during the same period last year. During the pandemic, reports have primarily concerned teleshopping windows and the protection of minors, while some submissions complained mostly about unbalanced information.

Exponentially growing demand for NMHH’s e-services

As of March 16, the Authority has been using only customer service channels that do not require personal contact, and in-person customer service has been suspended due to the pandemic. Probably this has also contributed to the fact that a quarter fewer official cases were initiated from the customer service during the last month compared to the same period last year. At the same time, also due to mandatory regulations, an increasing number of people use e-services, i.e. the NMHH’s Data Gateway: in March this year, there were already 77 percent more administrative proceedings of this type compared to the same period of the previous year. On the other hand, the number of announcements of infocommunications construction has dropped to close to a quarter, presumably due to the stagnation of investments.

Operating under the auspices of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, the Media and Infocommunications Commissioner has received 25 percent more complaints in the past month than during the same period of last year. A significant proportion of cases were related to infocommunications, and in one fifth of these cases the customers referred to the coronavirus. For example, the complainants would like to avoid the service provider performing personal work in their homes or would not like to amend the contracts in person. In other cases, the complainant urged the connection of their Internet service or asked for a waiver of the fee for the suspension of the service for the period they moved to their relatives during the pandemic. The coronavirus has magnified the discontent rather than changed the proportions: the current distribution of complaints is the same as before the pandemic.

There have also been reports of scaremongering

Internet Hotline, the NMHH’s non-official legal aid service, received 1.5 times more reports between mid-March and mid-April than in the previous months. A new element is that during the pandemic, several alerts about fake news were registered by the staff compared to a single one received by the service earlier this year, although neither the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, nor the Internet Hotline operating within the Authority as a hotline, has the power to investigate or sanction misleading online news sources. Amounting to over half of the cases, reports about fake news related to the pandemic that may give rise to suspicion of scaremongering are sent by the Internet Hotline to the police for further investigation. The number of reports about phishing and content harmful to minors has also multiplied this year: from the former category compared to the same period last year, and from the latter compared to the whole last year over twice the amount of reports have been received.

Although a significant portion of NMHH employees are now working remotely, our colleagues, in spite of the changed situation, still process the submission in a flexible and smooth manner, meeting the procedural deadlines.