Monday, March 2, 2009

Nuisance calls from property agents

THE two letters last Thursday from readers calling for action by the authorities to arrest the problem of nuisance calls by telemarketers ('Banks, please back off; MAS, kindly act...' by Miss Heng Siew Cheng, and 'Protect consumers against telemarketers' by Ms Chai Lai Yuen) are timely, as the current recession is likely to see more companies, faced with falling sales, resort to such tactics to procure business.

However, I would like to share that this problem is not just perpetuated by banks, insurance companies and spas, as Miss Heng and Ms Chai noted.

Recently, I was the victim of countless nuisance calls to my private residential line by property agents. In the absence of a regulatory authority over these agents, I have written to the offending property firms and asked to be placed on the 'no call' list as practised by most banks.

To my chagrin, the agencies disclaimed any responsibility for the marketing tactics of their agents and told me they were unable to help. In fact, one agency, PropNex, did not even bother to respond, though I took the trouble to appeal all the way to its chief executive officer, Mr Mohd Ismail. Some even brushed me off, citing their right to do telemarketing. Even the one government agency I assume would have some authority in such matters, the Singapore Land Authority, also expressed its powerlessness to help.

It is a mystery how these property agents got my private residential number as I have had no dealings with any of them. I have been told by a property agent friend, as well as conveyancing lawyers, that they either buy such details from data providers or get them illegally from the electoral register.

Either way, the ability of telemarketers to lay their hands on private information is disturbing, not to mention distressing. I appeal to the authorities to clamp down on such errant practices. At the same time, I urge the Government to examine the need for a data protection Act, which is in place in many developed countries.

Bryan Ong

Source: Straits Times Online Forum, 2 Mar 2009

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