Singapore

Do Not Call Registry: Firms can send text, fax

Do Not Call Registry: Firms can send text, fax
Photo: Reuters
Exemption to permit businesses to send messages to existing customers irks consumers
Published: 4:03 AM, December 27, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, December 28, 2013
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SINGAPORE — Just a week before the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry comes into effect on Jan 2, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) yesterday threw a lifeline to businesses by announcing that companies can still send text and fax messages to existing customers even if their numbers are listed on the registry. Individuals can opt out of receiving the messages by contacting the companies.

The exemption order — which the PDPC attributed to growing feedback as businesses started to prepare for compliance — irked many of the hundreds of thousands of consumers who have signed up with the registry to date. Irate consumers pointed out that the move came at the eleventh hour, after rounds of public consultations and parliamentary debates, and rendered the DNC initiative a far cry from its original incarnation.

Observers said it was tilting the balance towards businesses, instead of protecting consumers, while the Consumers Association of Singapore called it a “backpedalling of the law”.

As of yesterday, about 350,000 unique phone numbers were listed on the registry, a PDPC spokesman said.

On the timing of the announcement of the exemption order, he said the commission had received queries and feedback from organisations asking for clarity on the type of “in service” messages that would be considered as telemarketing messages.

“We received little feedback on details relating to such messages (during) the public consultation phase, but the amount of feedback grew as businesses started to prepare for compliance,” the spokesman said.

The exemption order allows organisations to “send text or fax messages on related products and services to customers and members with whom they have an ongoing relationship, without the need to check the DNC Registry”. A bank or credit card company, for example, would be able to send its existing credit card holders telemarketing messages about related services, such as a rewards programme for credit card holders, the PDPC said.

The commission said it “recognises that consumers, notwithstanding their registration with the DNC Registry, may wish to continue receiving such information in a minimally intrusive manner, via text or fax messages”. It added that it has also received feedback from organisations that their customers expect such messages to be sent.

“Without this exemption, individuals may miss such messages if they are registered with the DNC Registry and if the organisation, which they have an ongoing relationship with, did not obtain clear consent to send telemarketing messages to their telephone numbers,” the PDPC said.

The PDPC spokesman explained that a one-off transaction will “not be sufficient to establish an ongoing relationship”.

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