Debate on DNC exemption heats up

Debate on DNC exemption heats up

SINGAPORE - An exemption order on the Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry, that allows businesses to send SMS and fax messages to existing customers, boiled over into a full-fledged debate yesterday.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said that the exemption was not a U-turn. Its chairman, Mr Leong Keng Thai, added that it opens up more options for customers and they would not miss out on deals.

But the consumers' champion who had slammed the exemption stuck to his guns and said all this should have been ironed out before registration opened.

At a hastily called media briefing yesterday, Mr Leong said: "This is not caving in to businesses, but providing more options for consumers. The exemption order is not a backdoor to indiscriminate marketing.

"Without the exemption order, it's an all-or-nothing approach."

The PDPC said that the concession comes after feedback from both businesses and consumers.

Mr Leong said: "It was only after the advisory guidelines were published in September this year that businesses and consumers started thinking about details."

But Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon has said that the exemption "dilutes the original intention" of the DNC Registry, which lets consumers list their numbers to block telemarketers.

Mr Seah told MyPaper yesterday that he stands by his position, and that the public should have been informed of any changes before the registration was opened.

He said: "All the feedback should have been settled before the consultation period is over."

He added that it is "good" for PDPC to disclose the number of consumers who wish to receive information from businesses, as compared to those who indicated otherwise.

"People who registered are expecting not to receive any telemarketing messages," he said. "The public would want to know the number of people who want to receive such information, before the PDPC came to this decision which was made at the eleventh hour."

Project manager Clarissa Lim, one of those who signed up for the registry, said that there are other ways to reach out to consumers.

The 24-year-old said: "Those who signed up in the first place may not like to be contacted on the phone. It's better if it's clear-cut - just yes or no - and those who want to receive messages can opt in."

As of yesterday, more than 380,000 phone numbers have been listed on the DNC Registry.

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