The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said on Monday that businesses should not see the recently announced exemption as a "back door" for sending indiscriminate marketing messages to consumers.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, the Commission said that it had announced its exemption last week - a week before the launch of the Do-Not-Call registry - and not later, because it did not want consumers to miss out on relevant marketing messages.
"We do not consider the exemption order as a u-turn but rather an expansion of options for consumers. Without the exemption order it's an all or nothing approach," said Mr Leong Keng Thai, chairman of the PDPC. He added that consumers may miss out on relevant marketing information from existing service providers. These include banks' promotional tip-ups with restaurants and retailers for its credit card holders.
Mr Leong said that the exemption was deliberated after the PDPC received feedback from trade associations, chambers of commerce and individuals during the weekly roadshows and workshops it conducted over the past three to four months. He stressed that the PDPC is not caving in to businesses interests but "providing some certainty for them to operate".
Some critics said that a neater solution would be to fold the exemption order into the DNC registration process. But Mr Leong said it would not be practical as there would be too many lists for businesses to check before they could market to consumers.
"The exemption order is the least disruption to both consumers and businesses," he said.
On Dec 26, the PDPC said that businesses would be allowed to send text messages and faxes to customers they had an existing relationship with even if they had signed up on the Do-Not-Call registry.
This created some unhappiness among consumers who said that the exemption meant that they would still be receiving unsolicited advertisements.