Is cold calling illegal in the UAE? How to block unwanted sales calls

People can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry to permanently stop cold calls

Cold calls often interrupt family time and meetings. Bloomberg
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“Congratulations, you have been pre-approved for a Dh500,000 personal loan without any salary transfer. This offer is valid only until the end of the month, so hurry up and register now on this link for a callback.”

Hands up how many people in the UAE – and indeed farther afield – have answered one of these unwanted sales calls at one point or another.

They can come at any time of the day, and whether you have an Etisalat, du or Virgin phone number, they are almost always guaranteed to interrupt an important meeting or family time.

So, how do you stop this menace ofunwanted cold calls? The National explains.

What is cold calling - and where do unwanted calls come from?

Unwanted calls can be telemarketing calls, where the caller is trying to sell you products or services, illegal recorded messages for services that you have not subscribed to, or spam calls.

Increased use of Voice over internet Protocol, through which a single computer can make thousands of calls, or companies selling customer databases, has led to an increase in these sort of calls.

In 2021, The National found that batches of phone numbers and other personal data were routinely sold to various people, including estate agents.

What are the laws in the UAE?

In 2011, the UAE's Central Bank put a ban on cold calling. This prevented banks and finance companies from offering loans and services to people who had not sought out their business.

But the practice is widespread in various forms – often under the guise of prompting people to accept deals and special offers.

In real estate, it is widely used to promote rentals and properties for sale.

In January 2022, the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority 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 under the Kashif service.

What can individuals do?

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

All telemarketers must now get 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 prior 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.

How does it work?

It's simple. To register your mobile number, send an SMS message reading ‘DNCR’ to 1012. This applies to home, business, and mobile phone numbers. The registration is free and does not expire.

Once registered, your number is immediately updated in the registry and you will stop receiving unsolicited promotional calls, starting within 30 days from the date of registering.

If you still receive a call from a telemarketer without consent, you can raise a complaint by calling Etisalat customer care on 101 for personal numbers or 800 5800 for business numbers.

People who have a du number can raise a complaint by calling 155/188 or emailing for consumers and for businesses.

You can unblock calls by sending an SMS ‘UDNCR’ to 1012. You can also send an SMS to 1012 with ‘Check IDNCR’ to inquire about your number’s status.

How to block spam phone calls through your device setting

You can block phone numbers, contacts, and emails on your device.

You can also filter iMessages from unknown senders and report iMessages that look like spam or junk.

If you have an iPhone, tap "Recents", then tap the "Info" button next to the phone number or contact that you want to block. Scroll down, then tap "Block this Caller".

For phones that use Android platforms, such as Samsung, you can block calls using the Smart Call feature, which will recognise numbers that are not in your contact list and then give you the option to block or report the calls.

A version of this story was first published on November 16, 2022, written by Shuchita Gautam

Updated: August 24, 2023, 12:16 PM