Can friends "refer" your contact to companies without your permission in Malaysia?8 months ago JS Lim
There are some things is life that can be considered unsolvable mysteries, such as the JFK assassination, alien abductions, and…. How the heck that telemarketer got your phone number??
Most of them are from your banks, or might be trying to sell you insurance, but have you ever been called by a company which you’ve never done business with before? Where on earth did they get your number from eh? Bigger mystery!
There’s a possibility some of these guys got your details through data breaches like the time personal details behind 46.2 million Malaysian numbers were offered on the Lowyat forums. But the real cause might not even be something that serious. You might just find that what happened was a friend of yours recently gave your contact details to a company as a referral, in exchange for some free products or services…
You might not like your friend sharing your number without your permission, but is there any legal action you can take? And do you go after your friend, or the company?
Your friend is probably off the hook
Most countries don’t have any laws about giving out a person’s contact details, and Malaysia is no different. So...your friend probably won’t get into any legal trouble (unfortunately…)
It’s not like there aren’t safeguards in place to protect our personal information, but while we have the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA) in place to protect our personal information, this law only applies to people and companies that collect personal information...in relation to commercial transactions only. So the PDPA will not apply to your friend unless he makes a living out of giving your number to other people, or gave your personal details out as part of a business transaction.
But, if your friend somehow has enough of your information to sign you up for a membership (as a prank maybe), that could end up as a case of “cheating by personation” under Section 416 of the Penal Code - basically it’s pretending to be someone else in order to get a person to do something. Otherwise, contact details are generally seen as free and open for people to obtain.
But...the company that got your contact is not allowed to use it
While your friend probably doesn’t use your contact details to do business, the company that got your details is a collector of personal data for commercial purposes - to get and maintain customers. The company can certainly use your friend’s details since they were freely given, but the company can’t use your contact information unless you consented to it.
This means it’s illegal for them to call you, since they didn’t exactly get your permission to collect or use your data. There are 7 principles in the PDPA which protect your personal info, among which, you’re supposed to know if your contact details were being collected, what info exactly was collected, and exactly what the company wants to use it for. In essence, companies that operate in Malaysia need your permission to collect and use your information.
In usual cases where you’re applying to open an account with a service provider, these notifications will normally be in the fine print of your registration forms and/or contract. But if you’re not informed in one way or another, the company could get into big trouble, with fines of up to several hundred thousand ringgit depending on the severity of the offence.
You can learn more about how the PDPA works in our article linked below.
You can report offending companies to…
If an unauthorized company has gotten their hands on your contact info without your knowledge, you can (and should) report them to the Department of Personal Data Protection.
You can either file a report at their website, or send them an email. Detail the incident as clearly as you can, and attach any files or pictures you may have to help their investigation (for example, if the unauthorized company reached out over email).
The same goes for if you suspect your personal details were sold illegally (and not traded by your friend for a coupon). On the off chance that you’ve suffered losses (whether reputational, financial, harassment, etc.) from your information being misused, you can also seek compensation through the courts - contact your lawyer to see what can be done.
Jie Sheng knows a little bit about a lot, and a lot about a little bit. He swings between making bad puns and looking overly serious at screens. People call him "ginseng" because he's healthy and bitter, not because they can't say his name properly.