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23 July 2024

UAE to Implement Regulations and Mechanisms for Organizing Telemarketing Starting Mid-August 2024

By E247

The Ministry of Economy and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) have announced a decision regarding the regulation of telemarketing calls and another decision on violations and administrative penalties for actions that contravene its provisions. These provisions apply to all licensed companies in the country, including those in free zones, that market products and services through telemarketing calls made by the company or its employees to consumers for the purpose of marketing, advertising, or promoting their products or services. This includes using fixed or mobile phone numbers, marketing text messages, and marketing messages through social media applications.

The Ministry of Economy will oversee the implementation of these decisions in accordance with the laws of the country, in coordination with the TDRA, the Central Bank, the Securities and Commodities Authority, local licensing authorities, and other concerned entities, each according to its jurisdiction.

The decisions stipulate that companies must obtain prior approval to practice telemarketing from the competent authority, which is the federal or local government body responsible for licensing or regulating economic activities (each according to its jurisdiction). Individuals (natural persons) are prohibited from making marketing calls for products or services in their name or on behalf of others using a phone number licensed in their name by authorized telecom companies in the country.

These decisions aim to regulate the marketing of products and services through telemarketing calls to maintain economic and social stability, ensure companies adhere to marketing channels and times for the products and services they offer or market, and reduce unwanted marketing calls to achieve consumer comfort and protect their privacy.

Commitment to the highest standards of professionalism and credibility without disturbing the consumer

The decision requires companies to exercise due care and caution not to disturb consumers and to adhere to the highest standards of transparency, credibility, and integrity in marketing their products and services through telemarketing calls. This includes not using any marketing methods that exert undue pressure on the consumer to persuade them to accept the product or service, avoiding deception and misleading practices, making marketing calls only between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM, not calling the consumer back if they reject the product or service in the first call, and not calling back more than once a day or more than twice a week if the consumer does not answer or ends the call.

Regulations on the use of automated calling systems for marketing and advertising

The decision allows the use of automated calling systems for marketing and promoting products or services, provided the consumer is asked if they wish to continue the call before marketing the product or service, and adhering to any other regulations issued by the Minister of Economy in coordination with the competent authority and related entities.

Regulations for licensed companies conducting telemarketing calls

Licensed companies must obtain prior approval to practice telemarketing from the competent authority, provide comprehensive training for their marketers on professional conduct in telemarketing calls, use local phone numbers issued by licensed telecom companies, register these numbers under the company's commercial license, and create a communication channel for interested consumers. Marketing calls should only be made to consumers who have expressed interest, and calls should not be made to numbers listed in the Do Not Call Register (DNCR). Companies must keep records of all marketing calls, notify consumers that calls are being recorded, and submit periodic reports as determined by the competent authority.

Mechanisms for protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls

Consumers can file complaints with the competent authority regarding unwanted telemarketing calls, which must include the complainant's name, phone number, the name and phone number of the person being complained about, and any supporting documents. The competent authority will set the procedures for receiving and addressing complaints and can investigate unwanted marketing calls.

Prohibition of disclosing personal consumer data without consent

The decisions prohibit disclosing or trading personal consumer data without consent for reprocessing purposes by companies wanting to market their products or services through telemarketing calls. Consumers have the right to register in the DNCR to stop receiving telemarketing calls and file complaints according to the applicable laws and procedures.

Gradation of administrative penalties

The decisions specify a gradation in administrative penalties as follows: warning, administrative fine, suspension of activity partially or completely for not less than seven days and not more than 90 days, license cancellation, commercial register removal, and disconnection of telecom services. The competent authority may impose the most severe penalty if the company repeats the same violation within six months of the previous penalty.

TDRA’s authority regarding individual violations

The TDRA, in coordination with licensed telecom companies, may impose penalties on individuals who violate the prohibition on making marketing calls. The Central Bank oversees all telemarketing calls related to banking services, financial institutions, insurance companies, and related professions licensed by it.

Penalties for licensed companies

The decisions list 18 types of violations and administrative penalties for companies, including a fine of 75,000 AED for the first offense of practicing telemarketing without prior approval, increasing to 100,000 AED for the second offense, and 150,000 AED for the third. A fine of up to 150,000 AED is imposed for marketing to consumers listed in the DNCR. Other fines range between 10,000 AED and 150,000 AED for various other violations.

Penalties for individuals

Individuals making marketing calls for products or services using their licensed phone numbers face a fine of 5,000 AED, and disconnection of all phone numbers registered in their name until the fine is paid. For repeat offenses within 30 days, the fine increases to 20,000 AED, with a three-month disconnection of all phone numbers, and 50,000 AED, with a one-year ban on telecom services for a third offense within 30 days.