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Singapore

Good start to securing personal data

The Straits Times | Irene Tham | Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

The national Do-Not-Call Registry, which lets members of the public block telemarketing calls, has 595,000 local numbers since it started in January. However, phone and fax messages are not included in this protection.

Singapore's new Personal Data Protection Act was more than a decade in the making. So when it was finally passed in Parliament in October two years ago, the public got excited.

They were especially happy with the national Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry, which lets them block telemarketing calls, SMSes and faxes. They could finally say goodbye to pesky telemarketers.

The Registry went into force on Jan 2 this year and has 595,000 local numbers - there are about eight million local mobile numbers here.

The Personal Data Protection Commission, which manages the Registry, is investigating 3,000 complaints that are valid.

While the new law has been welcomed by consumers, does it give them enough protection in areas of the greatest need?

For sure, it does tackle one key annoyance: unwanted marketing phonecalls, which have interrupted meetings, disturbed sleep at ungodly hours and even taxed consumers' wallets - one gets charged for incoming calls while roaming overseas.

With the new rules, telemarketers who call phone numbers listed in the Registry risk a fine of up to $10,000 for each offence.

But the protection does not fully extend to phone or fax messages though.

Some consumers are unhappy over a last-minute exemption that allows firms to send text and fax messages to existing customers without checking with the Do-Not-Call Registry. This is as long as customers are given an option to unsubscribe to the messages via the same channel.

Consumers criticised the Commission for caving in to business pressures - a charge it denied. They also took issue with the exemption being introduced without public consultation.

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