Opt-out option for bill inserts applies to charity organisations: PDPC

A photo illustration of brochures and advertising mailers which occasionally come with phone and credit card bills. Charity organisations are allowed to call numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call registry to raise funds but they are not allowed to i
A photo illustration of brochures and advertising mailers which occasionally come with phone and credit card bills. Charity organisations are allowed to call numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call registry to raise funds but they are not allowed to insert fund-raising mailers in telco or credit card bills without customers' consent, the authorities have clarified in guidelines for the social service sector issued on Thursday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Charity organisations are allowed to call numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call registry to raise funds but they are not allowed to insert fund-raising mailers in telco or credit card bills without customers' consent, the authorities have clarified in guidelines for the social service sector issued on Thursday.

This is because the contact list belongs to the telcos or banks, and not the charity. Under the Personal Data Protection Act, fully implemented on July 2, companies must get customers' consent to use their personal data for such purposes. The same rule applies to other bill inserts such as marketing brochures on fixed broadband or pay-TV services.

Companies that have used the personal data of customers to send the inserts before the Act took effect can continue to do so. But customers must be allowed to opt out of receiving such marketing, said the Personal Data Protection Commission, which administers the Act.

Consumers can also opt out of receiving calls from charities.

The legislation seeks to provide safeguards against the wrongful collection, use and disclosure of personal data for marketing. It requires organisations to inform individuals of the purpose for collecting, using and disclosing personal data.

Confusion has arisen over whether charity organisations need to seek consent for inserting fund raising mailers in utility bills as charity organisations are exempted from the Do-Not-Call provisions in the Act.

The Commission also issued guidelines for the education and healthcare sectors today, all of which were finalised following a three weeks-long public consultation in May this year.

They aim to provide more clarity on issues such as the collection of personal data from patients seeking medical care and the use of students' personal data for admission to schools. For instance, if a patient has agreed to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner, the agreement would constitute consent for his doctor to disclose his personal data to the specialist as required for the referral.

The guidelines are intended to help companies comply with the Act. The first set of guidelines for the real estate and telecommunications sectors were released earlier this year.