Dec 03, 2013

    Ringing in business, with brakes on

    YOU are in the middle of a meeting when your phone rings and a polite voice on the other end offers you a loan, a credit card or an apartment that you don't need.

    Starting yesterday, when the national Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry was opened for sign-ups, you have been given the option of saying no, equally politely, to such calls.

    The catch is that the rings may get more persistent before they stop.

    Consumers can list their never-call-me phone numbers with the registry for free.

    As of 6pm, more than 67,000 numbers had been registered, said a spokesman for the Personal Data Protection Commission.

    But businesses must stop unsolicited marketing - through voice calls, text messages and faxes - to numbers in the registry only from Jan 2 at the earliest.

    One lawyer told MyPaper that people may be called more frequently in the meantime.

    Mr Bryan Tan, a partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay, said he has seen a growing number of contact-dealing firms selling their databases at a discount.

    "They're trying to reduce prices now to get people to buy, because it's really their last chance," he said.

    "Logic will tell you that, if you've got a database that's running out of life, you are going to try to monetise it as much as you can."

    But others argued that a surge in telemarketing calls, if any, could be due to the holiday season.

    Ms Lisa Watson, chairman of the Direct Marketing Association of Singapore, said: "If there is a surge, I feel that it's because of Christmas. But any responsible marketer would reduce overselling as that might lead to a backlash."

    She added that companies should now try to ask consumers for consent to be contacted in the future for marketing purposes.

    Lawyer Matthew Hunter said that a month of last-ditch marketing before the registry kicks into gear would not justify the additional manpower required.

    The DNC Registry is a key part of the new Personal Data Protection Act, which aims to protect personal information from being stolen or collected indiscriminately and used for marketing.

    Local telemarketing firms have to pay a one-time registration fee of $30 to check against the registry. They get free checks of 500 numbers a year. Beyond that, they have to pay between one cent and 21/2 cents per number.

    Ms Angie Tay, vice-chairman of the Contact Centre Association of Singapore, said: "Businesses will need to find more creative ways to reach out to consumers. With e-mail spam filters, flooding inboxes might not be a good marketing tactic."

    She added that smaller companies would find it more challenging to cope with the new rule as they might be behind "in technology and lack funds to buy databases from regulated sources".

    Real-estate firm Savills Singapore's senior director of research and consultancy, Mr Alan Cheong, said: "We might have to distribute more fliers.

    "But, looking at it on the surface, this rule may weed out people who are not keen on buying properties, so we can direct resources to those who want to be called and that's more effective."

    To register with the Do-Not-Call Registry, visit for more information.