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Stringent UAE laws on telemarketing. Image: pressmaster/Bigstock

UAE issues new telemarketing rules, heavy penalties

ABU DHABI, June 10, 2024

The UAE has introduced new rules regulating marketing through phone calls, and stringent penalties ranging from AED75,000 ($20,419) to AED150,000 ($40,838) for violations.
 
The Ministry of Economy and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) issued new resolutions in this regard.
 
The provisions apply to all licensed companies in the UAE, including free zones companies, engaging 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, said a Wam news agency report.
 
The Ministry of Economy will oversee the implementation of these resolutions under the prevailing legislation in the country, in coordination with TRDA, the Central Bank of the UAE, the Securities and Commodities Authority, local licensing authorities, and relevant entities, each according to its jurisdiction.
 
The resolutions stipulate that companies should obtain prior approval from the competent authority to legally practice telemarketing. The authority is the federal or local government entity (each according to its jurisdiction) entitled to licensing or regulating economic activities.
 
Natural persons (individuals) are prohibited from initiating 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.
 
The resolutions aim to regulate the marketing of products and services through telemarketing to maintain economic and social stability, 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, it said.
 
The resolutions require companies, in their marketing of products and services through phone calls, to exercise due care and diligence to avoid disturbing the consumer and to adhere to the highest standards of transparency, credibility, and integrity.
 
The requirements include refraining from using any marketing 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, initiating marketing phone calls only from 9:00 to 18:00, not calling the consumer again if they refuse the product or service in the first call, and not calling the consumer more than once a day and no more than twice a week if they do not answer the call or end it.
 
The resolutions allow, within its provisions, the use of automated dialling systems for marketing and advertising the products or services offered by the company. It also requires asking the consumer if they wish to continue the phone call before starting the marketing and advertising for the offered product or service and adhering to any other regulations issued by the Minister of Economy after coordination with the competent authority and relevant entities, and any additional regulations set by the competent authority.
 
The resolutions detailed controls applicable to licensed companies in the country conducting marketing phone calls, including: obtaining prior approval from the competent authority to engage in phone marketing, providing comprehensive training for the company's marketers on professional conduct ethics of marketing calls, using only local phone numbers issued by authorised telecommunications companies in the country and registered under the licensed company's commercial licence 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.
 
The regulations also require that licensed companies 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.
 
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. They should also sign a code of professional conduct according to the model prepared by the competent authority if it deems issuing this code necessary to ensure a minimum level of ethical business practices in their marketing activities through phone calls.
 
Companies must adhere to the specified appropriate day times for making marketing phone calls. The caller should identify the company and the purpose of the call at the beginning of the marketing phone call. Companies are obliged to disclose the source of obtaining the consumer's phone numbers and data if requested by the competent authority, and not using unregistered or unowned phone numbers by the licensed company in the country to make marketing phone calls.
 
The resolutions also include procedures to protect the consumer from unwanted marketing phone calls, i.e. marketing phone calls made in violation of the provisions of the above-mentioned resolutions. This excludes marketing phone calls initiated at the consumer's request.
 
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. The competent authority will set regulations and procedures for receiving and deciding on complaints according to its practices and may investigate and inquire about unwanted marketing phone calls.
 
The resolutions emphasise the prohibition of disclosing the consumer's personal data without their consent or selling it for reprocessing purposes by companies wishing to market their products or services to the consumer through marketing phone calls, in addition to the consumer's right to register in the DNCR to stop receiving marketing phone calls and to file complaints about them, under the prevailing legislation and procedures in this regard.
 
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 seven days and not exceeding 90 days, cancellation of the licence, 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 six months from the date of imposing the previous administrative penalty.
 
The resolutions also stipulate that the TRDA, in coordination with authorised telecommunications companies in the country, may impose one or more of the administrative penalties regarding the violation of a natural person who makes marketing phone calls in violation of the resolution's provisions. It falls within the jurisdiction of the Central Bank to oversee and decide on all matters related to marketing phone calls for banking services and other financial institutions and insurance companies licensed by it and operating in the country, as stipulated in the referenced resolutions and regulations issued by the Central Bank in this regard, it said.
 
The resolutions specify 18 types of violations and administrative penalties imposed on companies 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 AED75,000 for the first instance to AED100,000 for the second, and AED150,000 for the third, and a fine of up to AED150,000 for marketing services or products to consumers whose numbers are listed in the DNCR, and fines ranging from AED25,000 to AED75,000 for engaging in deception and misleading when marketing services or products via phone calls to the consumer. The resolutions also stipulate a fine of up to AED75,000 for marketing products and services via phone calls using numbers not registered under the licensed company's commercial licence in the country, in addition to a range of other fines ranging from AED10,000 to AED150,000 for any violation of these resolutions' provisions.
 
Regarding natural persons (individuals), the resolution on violations and administrative penalties stipulates that if a natural 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 financial fine of AED5,000 and disconnection of all landline or mobile phone numbers registered in their name until the fine is paid. The penalty escalates to AED20,000 and disconnection of all landline or mobile phone numbers registered in their name for three months if the same violation is committed within 30 days from the date of imposing the first administrative penalty, and AED50,000 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, the Wam report said.



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