Novelty ringtones lose their fun when they announce your dirty secrets.
A court in eastern China recently introduced a shaming ringtone to embarrass debtors and pressure them to pay the money they owe.
The Guanyun County People's Court in Jiangsu Province teamed up with a local telecommunication operator to design a "special ringtone" for local "laolai" (those who avoid repaying their debts).
The measure is aimed at shaming debtors who go missing after being ordered to repay debts, according to the court.
If anyone calls the debtor, the ringtone tells the caller: "The subscriber you are calling has been put on a blacklist by the Guanyun County Court for failing to repay their debts. Please urge the person to fulfill his legal obligations. The Guanyun County People's Court appreciates your support. Thank you!"
"The ringtone is designed to warn debtors and force them to repay their debts as soon as possible," said Pan Xingjun with the court.
Pan said that the ringtone let laolai feel the pressure from friends and relatives.
"The ringtone will disgrace debtors and force them out of their hideouts," Wang Yong, an employee with the court, told the Paper.cn. "The debtors' relatives and friends will be reminded of the debtor's lack of credibility and they can avoid being swindled."
"They cannot cancel the ringtone by themselves unless they repay their debts, and all mobile phone numbers registered under their name will be covered by the ringtone," Pan said.
China adopted a nationwide real-name registration policy for mobile phone number subscribers on Sept. 1, 2010. All new registers need to provide their ID cards to telecom operators to obtain new phone numbers.
"The court will give proof to help cancel the ringtone once they repay the debts," according to Pan.
So far, ten debtors have been put on the list by the Guanyun court. Most of the debtors are self-employed people who have hidden or transferred their assets to avoid repaying debts.
"They have the ability to repay, but refuse to carry out their legal obligations," the court said. "Some of them fabricated proof to resist repaying debts."
The court said it would work with more telecom operators to further enforce the measure.
When the ringtone was launched on the morning of July 20, a laolai immediately called one of the judges in the afternoon to cancel it, promising to repay the 100,000 yuan (14,800 U.S. dollars) he owed in installments.
Guanyun is not the only place to adopt the ringtone policy. The city of Huangshi in central China's Hubei Province and the city of Dengfeng in Henan Province recently introduced similar measures.
Many laolai have tried a variety of ways to shun repayment.
On Friday, a court in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, said that a 59-year-old woman had plastic surgery in an attempt to disguise herself to avoid repaying 25 million yuan of debt.