Donation-seeking fliers that come with bills: Charities need your okay

Donation-seeking fliers that come with bills: Charities need your okay

SINGAPORE- Fliers from charities seeking donations which sometimes come with your phone bills - are these still allowed under the new data protection law?

There is confusion over whether charities are exempted from seeking consumers' consent to insert such mailers in bills - like how they are allowed to call numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry.

But in guidelines for the social service sector issued yesterday, the authorities clarified that charity groups have to get permission to insert such fund-raising mailers in telco or credit card bills. This is because the contact list belongs to the telcos or banks for other purposes, and not the charity.

Under the Personal Data Protection Act, fully implemented on July 2, companies must get customers' agreement to use their personal data for such purposes. The same rule applies to other bill inserts such as marketing brochures on fixed broadband or pay-TV services. Anyone convicted under the Personal Data Protection Act could be fined up to $1 million.

Firms that have been sending the inserts before the Act took effect can continue to do so. But customers must be allowed to opt out of receiving such marketing, said the Personal Data Protection Commission, which administers the Act.

Consumers can also opt out of receiving calls from charities.

The legislation requires organisations to inform individuals of the purpose for collecting, using and disclosing personal data.

The registry, which went into force on Jan 2, allows consumers to block telemarketing calls, faxes and SMSes. More than 700,000 numbers have been listed on it.

Yesterday, the commission also issued guidelines for the education and health-care sectors after concluding a three-week-long public consultation in May. They aim to provide more clarity on issues such as the collection of information regarding patients seeking medical care and the use of students' personal data for admission to schools.

One point clarified, for instance, was that if a patient has agreed to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner, this constitutes consent for his doctor to disclose his personal information to the specialist, as required for the referral.

This article was first published on 09/12, 2014.
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