Check the Do-Not-Call Registry Before Marketing to Singapore Phone Numbers
As surveys reveal that more than 90% of the Singapore population will be estimated to have a smartphone, many companies continue to rely on telemarketing and cold calling as a means of prospecting customers. These organisations will need to pay attention to data protection laws regulating the use of personal data for marketing purposes.
This guide will help your business comply with the relevant regulations, especially if you employ telemarketing activities as part of promotion and marketing.
What is the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry in Singapore?
In Singapore, the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry is a database where individuals can register their mobile/telephone numbers to opt out of receiving unsolicited marketing messages and calls.
Marketing messages are generally defined as messages used for advertising or promoting goods and services, suppliers or suppliers of such goods and services. This extends to the advertising and promotion of interests in land or business/investment opportunities.
However, messages sent for conducting market research surveys, for charitable and religious purposes, or from organisations with whom you have an ongoing relationship, are exempted.
It is important to note that the DNC Registry provisions also apply to the sending of telemarketing messages through smartphone applications such as WhatsApp.
B2B marketing calls or messages sent to other organisations do not fall under the purview of the DNC Registry. If an individual uses a number for both personal and business use, he/she may still legally receive B2B marketing calls or messages that are sent to his/her number as a business phone number.
When Do You Need to Check the Do Not Call Registry?
There are three separate DNC Registers for Singapore telephone numbers – voice calls, text messages and fax, depending on the organisation’s method of outreach.
Under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), your organisation is required to screen your call lists with the relevant registers prior to sending out marketing messages to Singapore telephone numbers.
All businesses who need to use the DNC Registry for screening will need to create an account at a one-time fee of $30 ($60 for overseas companies) to gain access. Your organisation can log on to the DNC Registry website to start an account.
Are There Any Situations Where You Do Not Need to Check the Do Not Call Registry?
Unless your organisation has obtained clear and unambiguous consent to receiving telemarketing messages in written or accessible form from the subscriber of that telephone number, you are required to check all telephone numbers before sending out telemarketing messages.
This is unless your telemarketing message is exempted from the requirement to check the DNC registry under the Eighth Schedule of the PDPA. Such messages include:
- Messages sent for the sole purpose of confirming customer transactions, providing product warranty information or sending order delivery updates
- Messages sent to individuals with whom you have an ongoing relationship
- Messages sent solely for the conducting of market research surveys
- Messages for charitable and religious purposes
How Can an Organisation Check the Do Not Call Registry?
Once at the DNC Registry website, you will have to submit a list of telephone numbers you wish to screen against the DNC Registry. There are 2 ways to do this:
1. Small Number Lookup
You can manually enter up to 10 phone numbers at one time. Results of the search are displayed immediately.
2. Bulk Filtering
Under this option, your company can check more than 10 numbers at one time by uploading a CSV file containing a list of all 8-digit Singapore telephone numbers.
An automated SMS or email will be sent to notify you when the search is complete. Within 24 hours, the results will be available for download in the following formats:
- Filtered Numbers: This displays the list of submitted numbers and their status (Do Not Call/Not Registered) in each Register (voice/call/fax)
- Summary: A summary of the submission (quantity submitted/checked/rejected)
- On Behalf List: If your company is checking the telephone numbers on behalf of another organisation(s), the list of organisation(s) will be displayed here.
- Rejected Numbers: This lists all the numbers that cannot not be processed, accompanied with reasons for the rejection.
All results are valid for 21 days. After which, if your organisation wishes to conduct telemarketing activities, you will have to check your list of Singapore telephone numbers with the DNC Registry again.
How Much Will It Cost to Check the Do Not Call Registry?
When you have submitted your telephone numbers for checking, the DNC Registry will process and begin deducting one credit for each 8-digit telephone number. The DNC Registry allows for an annual 1,000 free credits, which is useful for businesses that have less than 1,000 numbers to check.
For additional checks beyond the 1,000 free quota, your organisation is required to pay a fee.
There are 2 options for payment:
Purchasing credits in advance. There are different tiers (A to F), corresponding to 5,000 – 1,000,000 credits. Depending on the credit tier selected, this can cost between $100 to $10,000.
2. Pay per use
Your company pays a fee each time it submits telephone numbers for screening. A minimum charge of $10 applies regardless with an additional 2.3 cents – 2.5 cents charged per telephone number submitted.
Payment may be made online using credit and debit cards. Offline payment via telegraphic transfer or bank transfer is available upon request if you are buying at least $5,000 worth of credits in one transaction.
For more detailed information on pricing structures and conditions, please refer to the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) website here.
What are the Penalties for Sending Specified Messages to Numbers Listed on the Do Not Call Registry?
Sending telemarketing messages to numbers listed on the DNC Registry without consent is an offence. Any organisation that breaches the DNC Registry provisions in the PDPA is liable to pay a financial penalty of 10% of the organisation’s annual turnover in Singapore for organisations with annual local turnover exceeding S$10 million, or up to S$1 million, whichever is higher.
As an example, Star Zest Tuition agency became the first company to be charged under the PDPA in 2014 for breaching the DNC Registry requirements. The tuition agency was found guilty of sending out unsolicited messages marketing the teaching services of its tutors to numbers listed on the DNC registry.
Both its director and Star Zest Tuition agency were fined $39,000 each after pleading guilty to 13 of the 37 charges.
The need to check the DNC Registry before sending marketing messages to Singapore phone numbers will place additional compliance requirements on companies that engage in B2C marketing and promotions via SMS or phone calls.
It will be necessary to educate your organisation’s telemarketing and sales teams on these regulatory requirements. For a start, it will serve your company best to create an account with the DNC Registry as this also allows you to start budgeting for any necessary compliance expenses.
You should also consult a data protection lawyer if you need legal advice on how your business can comply with the PDPA when marketing to Singapore telephone numbers.
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