Thursday 16 May 2013

Do-Not-Call registry to come into effect Jan 2, 2014: Yaacob

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia, 15 May 2013

The Do-Not-Call Registry will come into effect on January 2, 2014, said Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

Consumers can sign up through SMS, online registration or by calling a toll-free Interactive Voice Response System.

The provisions for Singapore's data protection requirements will take effect half a year later -- on July 2, 2014.

Dr Yaacob was speaking at the inaugural Personal Data Protection Seminar on Wednesday afternoon, which also marked the launch of the Personal Data Protection Commission.

The Do-Not-Call Registry is a database of phone numbers that businesses should check against before making marketing calls or sending advertisements through text messages or fax. To do so, organisations would need to create an account with the registry, with a one-time fee of S$30.

When the registry is operational, consumers will be able to register their preference -- whether they want to opt out of receiving such messages.

As to how the specifics will be carried out, the commission is now accepting views and suggestions through its second public consultation exercise until June 5. In particular, the commission is seeking views on the methods for organisations to access and submit their list of telephone numbers to be checked against the registry.

The commission has also come up with proposed charges for organisations to check numbers in the registry. Each account can check up to 350 numbers annually, but checks beyond that will be charged. Organisations can either pre-pay, or pay for each use.

For a prepaid fee of S$100, organisations would be able to check up to 5,000 numbers, while S$10,000 would allow them to check a million numbers. Organisations opting for a pay-per-use structure would pay between S$0.012 to S$0.033 to check per valid number, depending on how many numbers are submitted.

Dr Yaacob said: "Businesses collect data to deliver personalised services and customised products. However, as these technologies become more intelligent and intrusive, there is an increasingly higher risk of consumers' personal data being misused.

"In sum, what we need to do is to build trust - in a way that protects consumers but at the same time, recognises the responsibility that businesses have when using data for legitimate purposes."

For the first half of 2014, when companies make a check, their list will be valid for 60 days. However, after July, 2014, this will be reduced to only 30 days.

The Personal Data Protection Commission's chairman, Leong Keng Thai, said: "If a consumer registers today, for example, and yesterday, a company happened to make a check, then of course this number that the consumer registered today will not appear in the list until 60 days or 30 days later. Therefore, because of this period, consumers can expect to have the calls completely stopped only after 60 days in the first six months and 30 days thereafter."

On the part of consumers, the commission wants to find out what they think of the proposed ways to register their numbers with the registry. The idea so far, is to do it through SMS, online registration or by calling a toll-free Interactive Voice Response System for step-by-step instructions.

The launch of the registry is expected to have a larger impact on businesses, especially companies with a tele-marketing function. Thus, the commission said it will reach out to businesses to help them understand the Personal Data Protection Act and how it affects them.

It is also holding workshops once every fortnight from July, to help them "build capabilities".

Organisations with unique circumstances or issues that need extra help can also apply for "informal guidance" from the commission.

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