Cold callers face Dh150,000 fine in UAE telemarketing crackdown

Authorities tighten regulations in effort to combat unwanted sales calls

Dubai, Jan 16th, 2012 --  DIFC STOCK -  Business people on cellphones in DIFC. Photo by: Sarah Dea/ The National mobile phone cell
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The UAE on Sunday set out plans to clamp down on persistent cold callers, with companies facing fines of up to Dh150,000 ($40,838) and the threat of termination of operating licences for flouting strict new rules.

The Ministry of Economy, and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced the new regulations aimed at protecting the public against rogue telemarketers.

The tightened protocols apply to all licensed companies in the Emirates, including in free zones, which promote products through such calls to landlines and mobile phones.

The new guidelines, which will come into effect in August, include:

  • Telemarketing calls can only be made from 9am until 6pm. Calls outside of these hours are prohibited.
  • Companies must obtain prior approval from authorities to carry out telemarketing calls.
  • Companies are barred from calling back the customer if they reject the service or product in the initial conversation.
  • Telemarketers cannot make a call on the same day if the consumer has declined or ended the phone call.
  • Marketing calls can be made only from phone numbers registered under the name of licensed companies, not under individual names.
  • Customers can file a complaint with authorities if these rules are breached.

Penalties include warnings, fines of up to Dh150,000, partial or total suspension of activity, cancellation of the licence and telecommunication services being blocked for up to one year.

"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," a statement issued by the Government Media Office 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."

Strengthening consumer rights

The new regulations are the latest step in the government's drive to safeguard the rights of the public and ensure companies abide by rules.

In January 2022, the TRA launched a service called Kashif, which shows people where a call originates from – a bank, a telecom company or an insurance firm.

The aim was to reduce the number of anonymous calls residents receive. By the end of that year, all private companies had to have registered their phone numbers with the Kashif service.

The Do Not Call Registry feature can stop all unwanted calls. It has been in place since September 2022, when telecom providers started sending out messages to increase awareness.

All telemarketers must now receive consent from individuals to make promotional calls. They are advised not to make calls to the phone numbers listed in the DNCR directory unless they have the consent of a customer to do so.

People who do not follow the rules will have their numbers revoked and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Tough financial penalties

Companies that fail to obtain prior approval to make telemarketing calls can receive a Dh75,000 fine in the first instance, rising to Dh100,000 for a second offence and Dh150,000 for a third breach.

Fines of up to Dh150,000 can be imposed on companies who make calls to those signed up to the Do Not Call Registry.

Financial penalties ranging from Dh25,000 to Dh75,000 can be handed to those found to have misled or deceived customers during sales calls.

For individuals, if a person makes marketing phone calls for products or services using a number registered in their name, they will face a Dh5,000 fine and suspension of all their numbers until the fine is paid. If the same offence occurs within 30 days, the fine will increase to Dh20,000 alongside a three-month suspension. A third breach within 30 days will result in a Dh50,000 fine and a 12-month ban from services provided by licensed telecommunications companies.

Authorities said companies could have telemarketing activities suspended for between 7 and 90 days and have their licences cancelled for breaking the rules.

Offenders could also be removed from the commercial register and have their telecommunication services disconnected.

Updated: June 10, 2024, 6:47 AM