Nuisance cold callers to face Dhs150k fines in UAE from August 27
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Nuisance cold callers to face Dhs150k fines in UAE from August 27

Nuisance cold callers to face Dhs150k fines in UAE from August 27

Errant telemarketers in the UAE will face steep fines if they fail to comply with a set of new federal regulations.

Gareth van Zyl

Authorities in the UAE are clamping down on unwanted and deceptive telemarketing calls amid new regulations having been gazetted in recent weeks.

All companies licensed in the UAE, including those in free zones, are expected to comply with Cabinet Resolutions 56 and 57 of 2024 which deal with regulating telemarketing calls, as well as the respective violations and administrative penalties.

For example, resolution 56 has several obligations, which include that companies must:

  • obtain prior approval before engaging in telemarketing from the relevant authorities.
  • train telemarketing agents on ethics and the use of the ‘Do Not Call’ (DNC) register.
  • use a local phone number with a licensed telecom provider.
  • record telemarketing calls as well as informing consumers that the calls are recorded.
  • maintain a record of marketing calls and submit periodic reports to the authorities.
  • respect consumers’ privacy and preferences and abstain from calling those who have registered on the DNC register.

As per resolution 57, companies that fail to obtain prior approval to practise telemarketing from the relevant authority face administrative fines of Dhs75,000 as first-time offenders, Dhs100,000 as second time offenders and Dhs150,000 as third time offenders.

Meanwhile, companies that fail to provide comprehensive training for their telemarketing agents will face Dhs10,000 in a first-time offence, Dhs25,000 for the second time and Dhs50,000 for the third time. The regulations are set to come into force on 27 August, 60 days after the regulations were first published on 28 June 2024.

“The telemarketing regulations now provide scope for individuals to raise complaints regarding unwanted telemarketing and establish a range of fines and other penalties for companies that ignore the rules,” Dino Wilkinson, a leading technology lawyer in the UAE and partner at Clyde & Co told Gulf Business.

“Ultimately, companies could face losing their telecommunications services or commercial licence if they persist in making nuisance calls,” Wilkinson added.

Third parties and foreign calls?

For those companies trying to continue carrying out telemarketing calls in the UAE from outside of the country, they too may face obstacles.

Andrew Fawcett, a telecoms expert and digital and data partner at UAE law firm Al Tamimi & Company, told Gulf Business that article 4 of the new regulations does appear “to restrict using third party telemarketers and especially foreign service providers.”

Fawcett said this part of the regulations stipulates that companies engaging in market calls must:

  • Use local phone numbers issued by telecommunications companies licensed in the state [the UAE], and these numbers shall be registered under the commercial licence of the company licensed in the state.
  • not use phone numbers that are not registered or owned by the company licensed in the state to make marketing phone calls.

“Based on overseas approaches, it is likely that to be eligible, the number will need to be a UAE number used or maintained primarily for private or domestic purposes and the application will need to be made by the relevant account holder. A competent authority will manage the DNC registration and how to access the register, and payment of fees — if any — for doing so,” Fawcett added.

How the DNC will work

Fawcett told Gulf Business that while the regulations are now officially in place, the UAE still needs to set in motion “procedures and processes to be set by the competent authority”.

Meanwhile, Clyde & Co’s Wilkinson said that a national DNC registry has at least already been in existence in the UAE since 2023.

“The two main telecom operators – Etisalat and du – both offer routes for customers to register via online portals or SMS services,” Wilkinson said.

“Once an individual registers their number, it is immediately updated in the registry. Telemarketers are supposed to consult the DNC registry before launching a marketing campaign and they are prohibited from contacting any registered numbers,” Wilkinson added.

In line with global approach

Tougher measures are the order of the day across the globe when it comes to questionable telemarketing practices.

Countries can differ in their approach, with some opting for self-regulation while others, such as the UAE, have gone one step further.

“In the absence of a relevant industry body, these regulations have been driven by the federal government in the UAE, but they contain best practice measures such as requirements to maintain records, ensure quality assurance and train marketing staff,” said Wilkinson.

“Many countries around the world – including the US, UK, Australia and India – have also established regimes that include a national do-not-call list similar to that proposed for the UAE,” Wilkinson added.

Wilkinson further explained that telemarketing regulations in the UAE are not directly connected with any data privacy laws in the country. Also, Wilkinson noted that the UAE’s federal Data Protection Law, which was published in 2021, remains on hold pending the issuance of implementing regulations and establishment of the UAE Data Office.

Fawcett echoed this, telling Gulf Business that the new regulations are “directed specifically at telemarketing activities”.

“The data privacy law has more general controls on processing of personal information, including for purposes of direct marketing. Interestingly, the regulations require the calls to be recorded, which under pre-existing laws strictly needs consent but the call recipient needs to be told about the recording at the outset,” said Fawcett.

“The telemarketing regulations are closest to the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority’s unsolicited electronic messages regulations, which to date had been the main anti-spam law in the UAE,” he added.

Authorities are clamping down on spam calls in the UAE. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Authorities are clamping down on spam calls in the UAE. (Image credit: Getty Images)

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