Exemption to Do Not Call Registry is for consumers' benefit: PDPC chairman
- POSTED: 30 Dec 2013 17:55
- UPDATED: 31 Dec 2013 09:59
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The chairman of the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) has defended the decision to provide an exemption to the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.
SINGAPORE: The chairman of the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) has defended the decision to provide an exemption to the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.
PDPC chairman Leong Keng Thai said the move is "not a U-turn" and it is not "putting business interests ahead of consumers".
The registry kicks in on January 2, and anyone who registers their phone numbers makes an explicit undertaking that they do not want unsolicited calls, messages or faxes from telemarketers.
PDPC introduced an exemption last week which allows businesses to continue sending marketing-related texts and faxes to clients with whom they have an "ongoing relationship".
And four days after it announced the exemption, the commission clarified its position in a closed-door media briefing.
It said the exemption is meant to benefit as many consumers as possible, and was in response to feedback from businesses and consumers themselves.
Mr Leong said: "Certainly this is not a U-turn of the policy because the intent of the DNC and the workings of the DNC continue to remain. Actually what is really happening is we have provided an expansion of options to consumers.
“Currently with the DNC, it's either all or nothing. So if your number is in there you are not going to receive anything at all or if your number is not in there you will receive all kinds of telemarketing messages. But with this, it provides another option for consumers.
“Maybe there's a group of consumers out there who do not want to receive all kinds of telemarketing messages but they do not mind receiving relevant and beneficial information from organisations whom they have a current relationship with.
“I think this exemption allows for the extension of options for consumers. I think this is positive for consumers.”
The UK has adopted the same model where companies with existing relationships with customers are allowed to send out marketing messages with a one-time opt-out feature.
Mr Leong added that the decision was made to introduce the exemption now rather than later, to let the law run its course and provide "some certainty to businesses and consumers".
He said: "We considered whether to do this now or do this later. We wanted to get the start of the DNC from January 2, clean.
“If we do it later, there will be a period of time where for the group of consumers who do not mind receiving relevant information, (they) would be deprived of this information, and later if we implement it, it will just cause more disruption for both of those consumers who do not mind, as well as for companies."
So far, there are over 380,000 registered unique numbers to the DNC Registry.
Since the exemption was announced on Thursday, some consumers have cried foul saying that it dilutes the purpose of the registry. Some others have also said they are confused over how the exemption would affect them.
The commission reiterated that the exemption is limited in scope.
Companies can only send messages related to the service they are providing, and consumers must also be able to opt-out.
That means if a consumer had all along intended never to receive any in-service marketing message, he would need to take an additional step of opting out the first time he receives a marketing message from a company with which he has an ongoing relationship.
PDPC said this additional step makes it possible for other DNC-registered consumers who want marketing messages to continue receiving them.
The Consumers Association of Singapore’s (CASE’s) executive director Seah Seng Choon had called the move "back-pedalling", and he remains unconvinced, saying that those who register their numbers clearly do not want to be disturbed.
He said they would not lose out as companies can still send emails about promotions.
Meanwhile, businesses are gearing up for the change.
Property firm PropNex has bought an app that will prompt agents on whether or not they want to proceed with DNC-registered numbers.
It has also temporarily suspended its telemarketing team, which is mainly made up of part-timers, for a month to assess the impact of the new rules.
Mohd Ismail Gafoor, chief executive officer of PropNex, said: "In the past it was so much easier, salespeople just send out SMSes about new launches or anybody who has an interest to sell or buy, or say that we have a keen seller or buyer looking for a potential tenant or buyer. But now there are some restrictions where you can't freely do it unless you go through the DNC list.”
The Contact Centre Association of Singapore anticipates that the role of telemarketers may change to a more customer service-oriented one, as firms scale back on telemarketing services.
Vice-chair of the Contact Centre Association of Singapore, Angie Tay, said: "Some are speculating that with the DNC Registry, the whole telemarketing industry is going to shrink and then the telemarketers will be out of jobs.
“The whole telemarketing system cannot be standalone. We have to look at the whole model as an integrated marketing so we can engage in social media, we can engage in customer service, to improve on telemarketing.”