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Opt-out provisions

S.34 of the Ordinance basically requires organizations to provide an opt-out clause when they are direct marketing to an individual for the first time. This clause lets the data subject opt out of any marketing that is sent to him/her. Also, if at any stage in the marketing, the data subject indicates that he no longer wishes to receive any further marketing materials from the merchant, the merchant must cease sending marketing materials.

The legal enforcement of opt out provisions is difficult if not impossible with respect to direct marketing materials sent by organizations based overseas that are targeting Hong Kong residents. It would therefore be desirable, for the reasons of cost-effectiveness of direct marketing campaigns, consumer satisfaction and privacy protection, for the industrial associations representing the direct marketing industry in Asian countries to harmonize their individual codes of practice to provide an opt-out message, and maintain and respect opt-out lists within the whole Asian region.


Observe direct marketing guidelines

The Privacy Commissioner has published a guideline document, "Personal Data Privacy and the Internet - A Guide for Data Users" to assist organizations comply with some of the more common applicable requirements of the Ordinance when they are collecting, displaying or transmitting personal data over the Internet. The guide has a section on "Direct marketing activities on the Internet" which emphasizes that organizations need to:

1 state that they are collecting information for the purposed of direct marketing, at the time of collection;

2 provide an opt-out choice to the individual;

3 maintain an opt-out list; and

4 set a policy on unsolicited advertising e-mails (spamming).

Businesses in Hong Kong who want to make use of direct marketing for the sale or promotion of their goods or services must comply with S.34 of the Ordinance.