Optout option for unwanted ad mailers in bills

Submitted by admin on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 09:31
Monday, May 19, 2014 06: 40
 
Irene Tham
The Straits Times
 
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 payTV 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 monthlong
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.
 
"It is one valuable avenue for consumers to learn about what's new and what may be relevant to them," said Mr Leong.
Despite having been given the chance to rid themselves of junk mailers, some consumers interviewed yesterday said they will not opt out of receiving them, with many deeming the
practice "harmless".
 
"I will just throw them away if they are not relevant," said teacher Jerena Tan, 26. "Some provide good information on promotions I want to know about," said senior youth worker
Paul Teo, 41.
 
Yesterday, the commission also clarified that a minor has to be at least 13 years old to be able to give consent for the use of his or her personal data for marketing purposes.
This practical rule of thumb is in line with local laws like the Employment Act and PG13 video ratings, it said after concluding a separate public consultation in April last year.
Together, these rules "will facilitate legitimate and reasonable use of personal data by businesses, enhance Singapore's position for data management activities, and at the same
time protect individuals against misuse and unauthorised disclosure of their data," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.
 
He was giving the opening address at the 2nd Personal Data Protection Annual Seminar at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel yesterday.
The commission is not done with its work yet. Yesterday, it released for public consultation a fresh set of guidelines targeted at the education, social services and healthcare
sectors.
 
They aim to provide more clarity on issues such as the collection of personal data from patients seeking medical care, and the use of students' personal data for admission to
schools and provision of social services.
 
For instance, if a patient has agreed to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner, the agreement would constitute consent for his doctor to disclose his personal data to the
specialist as required for the referral. The consultation will close on June 6.
 
This article was published on May 17 in The Straits Times.