Firms begin ploughing through DNC Registry

[SINGAPORE] Banks, telcos, insurance firms and the like piled into the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry on its first official day, with 95 organisations checking a total of 13 million contact numbers by 4pm yesterday.

Of the 13 million, 1.4 million - or just over 10 per cent - were listed in the registry, which lists the phone numbers of people who do not want to receive unsolicited marketing messages.

The 13 million numbers checked and the resulting 1.4 million "hits" are not unique figures, as more than one organisation would have run the same number through the registry, resulting in duplication.

So eager were some of the organisations to vault over the regulatory hurdle that they began looking up phone numbers at 12.05am yesterday, several minutes after the registry was launched.

"We think that operationally, things are running as expected. The fact that companies were coming in five minutes after the start of the DNC Registry means they are serious about it and taking steps to comply," a Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) spokesman said yesterday.

The largest file submitted for batch processing contained more than three million numbers, and the longest a number lookup query took to process was 20 minutes.

Since the registry was opened to the public last month, some 400,000 unique registrations by consumers had been made by 4pm yesterday, the PDPC said.

Three-quarters of them opted out of receiving marketing messages in all three forms - voice call, text message and via fax. The remaining 25 per cent either opted out of one kind or some combination of two mediums.

So far, two complaints about unsolicited text messages have been made by members of the public, which appear to be valid, the commission said. It will investigate these complaints.

Organisations found to have flouted the DNC regulations will receive written notification of their offence, which can carry a fine of up to $10,000 under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

The registry had an inauspicious run-up to its launch last week, when a new exemption by the PDPC came under heavy criticism. This exemption now allows firms to send text and fax messages to existing customers without having to check the registry, as long as an option to unsubscribe to the messages is offered.

As call centres and marketers cheered the move, consumers were vehement in their criticism of it. Since then, the PDPC has defended its decision, branding it "an expansion of options for consumers".

Consumers who register now may still receive telemarketing messages for the next 60 days. If they register after July 2, however, they should expect the messages to stop after 30 days.

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