Opt-out option for unwanted ad mailers in bills

Opt-out option for unwanted ad mailers in bills

Unwanted brochures that come with telecoms, credit card or power bills could soon be a thing of the past.

Under new guidelines issued yesterday by the Personal Data Protection Commission, advertising mailers inserted in monthly bills, or promotions printed on bills, will be allowed only with customers' consent.

This would apply, for instance, to marketing brochures on fixed broadband or pay-TV services inserted into a mobile subscriber's bill.

From July 2, customers must be allowed to opt out of receiving such marketing, said the commission yesterday after concluding a month-long public consultation in February.

The commission noted that the same principle will apply to all sectors, including banking. This means that a bank may no longer include mailers, on say, restaurant or travel deals, to credit card customers without consent.

The new guidelines are intended to help companies comply with the Personal Data Protection Act, which will be enforced by the commission from July 2. Provisions relating to the Do Not Call Registry came into effect earlier on Jan 2.

During the consultation, StarHub sought clarity on bill inserts, saying they "do not constitute a use of personal data as these messages are generally not targeted at any specific individuals".

But the commission disagreed.

"An organisation that packages advertisements for specific products or services together with bills that are addressed to an identifiable individual (is considered) to have used personal data for advertising purposes, even if the advertisements themselves are not addressed to the individual," it said.

Lawyer Gilbert Leong, a partner at Rodyk & Davidson, said the guideline has wide implications as bill inserts have traditionally been used by billing organisations to announce new services, including those from third parties.

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