Respite from telemarketers: Do-Not-Call registry to start from Jan 2 next year

COME January 2 next year, consumers can start adding their phone numbers to the national Do-Not-Call registry to avoid getting calls and messages from telemarketers.

The Government-funded registry is a key part of the new Data Protection Bill, which became law on Jan 2 this year. The law aims to protect personal information from being stolen or indiscriminately collected and used for marketing purposes.

From next year, consumers will be able to opt out of telemarketing calls, faxes, as well as short message service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS) messages. The Do-Not-Call framework also covers messages sent via instant messaging apps - with the most widely used being WhatsApp.

"From the businesses' perspective, technological advances have given insights into customers' needs, wants and behaviour. Businesses collect data to deliver personalised services and customised products," said Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim on Wednesday at the launch of the Personal Data Protection Commission, which is tasked to enforce the newly-minted Personal Data Protection Act.

"However, as these technologies become more intelligent and intrusive, there is an increasingly higher risk of consumers' personal data being misused," he added.

The Act - although in effect since Jan 2 this year - will not be enforced until July 2 next year to give companies time to install systems and processes to adjust and comply with the law.

Yesterday, the Commission also launched its second consultation paper to invite feedback on the Do-Not-Call registry's proposed operational and charging mechanisms.

It has proposed a one-time registration fee of $30 for each account created, which comes with free checks of 350 numbers against the registry per year. Beyond that, telemarketers need to pay between 1 cent to 3.3 cents per number checked.

The Commission has also proposed that individuals register their mobile, fixed-line and fax numbers via a toll-free interactive voice response system, by sending a text message or on its website.

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