New warning over telemarketing in Singapore as salesperson faces charges under ‘do not call’ rules

Out-Law News | 23 Sep 2014 | 11:31 am | 2 min. read

A property salesperson in Singapore is the latest to face charges for offences relating to ‘do not call’ (DNC) registry rules under the country’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which came into force last January.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said (3-page / 160 KB PDF) it will be charging the salesperson registered with Huttons Asia Pte Ltd in the State Courts on 24 September. The property salesperson will be facing up to 27 counts of contravening the PDPA, relating to the obligation to check the DNC registry before sending any telemarketing messages to Singapore telephone numbers, the PDPC said.

According to the PDPC, the messages “advertised various residential property developments in Singapore”.

Singapore’s real estate sector currently makes up about 47% of complaints pertaining to DNC related offences, the PDPC said.

The DNC was established to allow consumers to register and block unsolicited marketing calls, mobile phone text messages and faxes. To date, about 4,500 organisations have registered to check Singapore telephone numbers against the DNC registry, which the PDPC said is “a nine fold increase” from the 500 organisations that first registered with the registry when it came into effect on 2 January. An average of 38 million telephone numbers is checked every month and the registry now has about 600,000 registered numbers to date, the PDPC said.

PDPC chairman Leong Keng Thai said: “Telemarketers looking to promote their products or services to individuals with Singapore telephone numbers must abide by the DNC provisions. It is a frustrating experience for individuals who have registered their numbers with the DNC registry to continue receiving unsolicited telemarketing messages, and the PDPC will take enforcement action against those who continue to ignore the rules.”

Businesses operating in Singapore are generally prohibited from sending marketing messages to individuals whose telephone numbers are included on the DNC registry. Businesses are required to consult the DNC before sending such messages and face fines if they send messages to those who have asked not to be contacted. Only if a business has received the "clear and unambiguous consent" of individuals listed on the DNC to the sending of marketing messages is that activity legitimate.

Any person or organisation found guilty of sending telemarketing messages to Singapore telephone numbers without checking the DNC face fines of up to SGD 10,000 ($8,000) per message sent.

Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that DNC cases such as this are relatively quick to investigate and prosecute, but that breaches of the main provisions of the PDPA will take longer. "Main provision breaches will be more complex and their effects more devastating, so organisations must continue to be vigilant to ensure compliance with all the provisions of the PDPA," he said.

The PDPA was passed by Singapore's parliament in October 2012 and governs the way that companies collect, use, disclose and process personal data. It does not apply to public bodies.

The PDPC said as organisations become more familiar with the obligations relating to the DNC registry, the number of complaints pertaining to DNC related offences it has received on a monthly basis has also fallen “by as much as five folds”. The PDPC said it has investigated more than 3,500 valid complaints against various organisations since the DNC provisions took effect, while investigations into some 1,700 other complaints are ongoing. “These organisations are from sectors such as property, private education and retail,” the PDPC said.

Last month, a Singapore tuition agency and its director became the first to be prosecuted and fined under the PDPA.