China Mobile is struggling quell public anger after being caught selling mobile phone numbers to advertisers of mass text message spam.
It was the second time in a year that the mobile giant had been fingered for mobile spam - both time the result of exposure by state-owned broadcaster CCTV.
On this occasion, the channel\'s crusading consumer advocacy program revealed that China\'s Mobile\'s Shandong subsidiary had sold subscribers\' numbers and information to spammers - earning between 600-800 yuan for every 10,000 text messages sent.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered China Mobile to punish those responsible and called on China Telecom and China Unicom to crack down on text message spam.
China Mobile sacked four Shandong Mobile executives and demoted five others.
Communication Information News said in an editorial that \'China Mobile not only failed its duty as a gatekeeper of text message spam but took advantage of its monopoly in the market.\'
Others pointed out the China Mobile\'s near-monopoly status in the mobile market provided the opportunity for executives to abuse its market power for the company\'s profit.
Opinion makers, including China Merchants Bank CEO Ma Weihua and Chi Fulin, member of the National Committee of CPPCC, called for the introduction of more private capital into the telecom business in order to prevent monopoly abuses.
Ironically, a few days before the scandal, China Mobile unveiled its anti-text message spam program. Subscribers can block wanted spam messages by downloading a free software called \'Information Housekeeper\' from the its website.
\'But who would trust such a housekeeper now‾\' questioned a commentary article on the website of state-owned Xinhua.
Calls to further protect consumers\' rights have increased. Deng Yuwen, an economic commentator from Shanghai-based National Business Daily, called for the establishment of a do-not-call register, with heavy penalties for breaches.
A year ago, a similar furor erupted after China Mobile admitted allowing advertising firms to spam 200 million cellphone users. The carrier apologized for the incident and faced no further penalty.