Do-not-call registry will be open for registration by end of the year

Unwanted phone calls from telemarketers will soon be a thing of the past. From Jan 2 next year, a national Do-Not-Call registry will be launched for people to list their numbers.

Telemarketers must check against it before making a sales pitch on the phone, through fax. SMS or MMS.

To register for no voice call, text messages and fax messages, consumers may SMS "DNC" to 78772. Consumers may also send an SMS to 78773 if they choose to block calls only. They can also call 1800-248-0772 to register to block calls, text messages and fax messages. Another way to list one's number on the registry is to visit the website. Consumers may register for the registry from Dec 2 to ease the rush in January next year.

Marketing messages sent via instant messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, to the numbers on the registry will be prohibited too. Those who defy the rule risk a maximum $10,000 fine, should the consumer complain to a new watchdog body called the Personal Data Protection Commission.

The government agency will enforce the new Personal Data Protection Act which aims to protect personal information from being stolen or indiscriminately collected and used for marketing purposes.

The Act took effect on Jan 2 this year and the government- funded registry is a key part of it.

Unlike the registry, whose rules will be enforced when it is launched, the Act will start biting only from July 2 next year.

From then, a fine of up to $1 million will be imposed on firms that fail to reveal to consumers at the point of collection how they plan to use their contact details, or that fail to get their explicit consent before calling or texting them to market products or services. The rules apply to overseas companies as well.

A one-time registration fee of $30 will have to be paid by companies for each account created, which comes with free checks of 500 numbers in the registry each year. Beyond that, telemarketers have to pay between 1 cent and 2.5 cents per number checked.

A call list checked against numbers in the registry will be valid for 60 days, after which a company must do a check again. The validity period will be reduced to 30 days from July next year.