New telemarketing rules in UAE: Timings, fines, exemptions explained

New telemarketing rules in UAE: Timings, fines, exemptions explained

Starting mid-August 2024, telemarketers in the UAE can call customers only during specific hours — from 9am to 6pm.

Importantly, once a consumer has rejected the service or product in the first call, they cannot be called again on the same day. Violators will also face administrative penalties, including warnings and fines of up to Dh150,000.

These are part of new controls and procedures announced by the Ministry of Economy and the Telecommunication and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).

Here are the details of the new procedures, regulations and penalties related to telemarketing that consumers and companies need to know:

When will new rules come into effect?
They will come into effect from mid-August 2024.

What is the purpose of the new regulations?
The resolutions aim to ensure companies adhere to the channels and times for marketing the products and services they offer and reduce unwanted marketing phone calls to ensure consumers’ comfort and value their privacy.

What time can telemarketing executives call customers?
They can make marketing phone calls only from 9 am to 6 pm.

Can the telemarketing team call customers multiple times in a day?
Marketing executives are not allowed to call the consumer again if they refuse the product or service in the first call, and not call the consumer more than once a day, and no more than twice a week if they do not answer the call or end it.

Do marketing executives need to ask customers if they wish to continue the call at the beginning?
Yes. The resolutions require asking the consumer if they wish to continue the phone call before starting the marketing and advertising for the offered product or service. The resolution also allows, within its provisions, the use of automated dialling systems for marketing and advertising the products or services offered by the company.

Can customers file complaints?
Yes. The consumer has the right to file a complaint with the competent authority regarding unwanted marketing phone calls, including the complainant’s name, phone number, the name and phone number of the respondent, and any documents supporting the complaint, if available.

Do customers have the right to ask to stop receiving marketing phone calls?
Yes. The consumer has the right to register in the DNCR to stop receiving marketing phone calls and to file complaints about violating the firm.

Can telemarketers pressure customers?
The resolution refrains telemarketing executives from using any means that place pressure on the consumer to persuade them of the offered product or service, avoiding deception and misleading when marketing the product or service.

Will the law cover landlines, SMS messages and social media also?
Yes. The new law will apply to firms engaged in marketing products and services through phone calls initiated by the company or its employees to the consumer for marketing, advertising, or promoting products or services they offer or on behalf of their clients, using a landline or mobile phone number. This includes marketing text messages and marketing messages through social media applications.

Are telemarketing executives required to make calls only through company-registered phones?
Marketing executives are required to use only local phone numbers issued by authorised telecommunications companies in the country and registered under the licensed company’s commercial license in the country. They also include providing a communication channel for consumers interested in receiving marketing information, making marketing calls only to those consumers, not calling to market products or services to consumers whose numbers are listed in the DNCR, and keeping a record of all marketing phone calls of the company, based on the record form provided by the competent authority.

Can individuals make marketing phone calls from their personal phones?
No. They’re prohibited from marketing phone calls for products or services they offer in their name or on behalf of their clients, using a landline or mobile phone number registered under their names at telecommunications companies in the UAE.

What is the penalty if an individual calls from his/her phone?
The resolution stipulates that if a person makes marketing phone calls for products or services in their name or on behalf of their clients, using a landline or mobile phone number licensed in their name, they will be subject to a Dh5,000 fine and disconnection of all landline or mobile phone numbers registered in their name until the fine is paid. The penalty increases to Dh20,000 and disconnection of all landline or mobile phone numbers registered in their name for 3 months if the violation is committed within 30 days from the date of imposing the first administrative penalty, and Dh50,000 and a ban on obtaining any services from licensed telecommunications companies in the country for 12 months if the same violation is committed within 30 days from the date of imposing the second administrative penalty. Moreover, TDRA may impose one or more administrative penalties on individuals who make marketing phone calls in violation of the resolution’s provisions.

How many penalties are there in the law for violations?
The resolutions specify 18 types of violations and penalties for violating the provisions of the issued resolutions, including not obtaining prior approval to engage in phone marketing from the competent authority, with administrative fines ranging from Dh75,000 for the first instance to Dh100,000 for the second, and Dh150,000 for the third. Fines range from Dh25,000 to Dh75,000 for engaging in deception and misleading when marketing services or products to the consumer.

There is a fine of up to Dh75,000 for marketing products and services via phone calls using numbers not registered under the licensed company’s commercial license. In addition, there is a range of other fines from Dh10,000 to Dh150,000 for any other violation of resolutions’ provisions.

Do telemarketing firms need to train staff?
Yes. Firms are required to provide comprehensive training for the company’s marketers on professional conduct ethics of marketing calls.

Will firms’ licenses also be cancelled for violating laws?
Yes. The resolutions stipulate a gradation of administrative penalties as follows: warning, administrative fine, suspension of activity in whole or in part for a period not less than 7 days and not exceeding 90 days, cancellation of the license, and removal from the commercial register with disconnection of telecommunications services and removal of the phone number. The competent authority may not follow the gradation in specific penalties and impose the most severe administrative penalty if the company commits the same violation subject to a previous administrative penalty within 6 months from the date of imposing the previous administrative penalty.

Can telemarketing firms disclose or sell data of customers?
It is prohibited to disclose the consumer’s personal data without their consent or sell it for reprocessing purposes by companies wishing to market their products or services to the consumer through marketing phone calls.

Are there any exemptions?
Yes. Firms will not be penalised for making phone calls initiated at the consumer’s request.

Do firms need approval for telemarketing practice?
Yes. Companies should obtain prior approval from the competent authorities – either federal or local government entities – to legally practice telemarketing.

Will it cover all telemarketing companies in mainland and free zones?
Yes. The law will apply to all licensed companies in the UAE, including those operating in the free zones.

Do firms need to submit records regularly?
Companies should submit periodic reports as specified by the competent authority regarding the marketing phone calls made within a month from the report’s due date.

Can firms destroy customer phone call records?
The licensed companies are required to provide data and information about their marketing activities conducted through marketing phone calls and not destroy them before the end of the period specified by the competent authority, recording marketing phone calls while notifying the consumer of this recording at the beginning of the call.

Which authority will monitor calls for banking, and insurance products?
It falls within the jurisdiction of the Central Bank of the UAE to oversee and decide on all matters related to marketing phone calls for banking services and other financial institutions and insurance companies.

Which UAE authorities will monitor the implementation of the law?
The Ministry of Economy will oversee the implementation of these resolutions in coordination with the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, the Central Bank of the UAE, the Securities and Commodities Authority, local licensing authorities, and relevant entities, each according to its jurisdiction.

Summary of Article by: Waheed Abbas, the Khaleej Times

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