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The Legal and Regulatory Obligations of Digital Marketing in Singapore

The Legal and Regulatory Obligations of Digital Marketing in Singapore

Digital marketing in Singapore is regulated predominantly by two legislations – the Spam Control Act (SCA) and the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

Spam Control Act (SCA)

When marketing your brand online, you need to observe the relevant regulations including:

Advertising messages

While advertising, you must ensure that any branding, quote, or statement is not false or misleading.

Direct marketing vs Digital Marketing

With direct marketing, you ought to follow the spam privacy regulations. Under the spam act, it’s prohibited to send unsolicited marketing messages without consent. Under the privacy act, you ought to take caution when collecting, securing, and disclosing customer’s information.


A DNC registry allows people to opt-out of receiving commercial messages. Thus sending messages to individuals in the DNC list is illegal.

Pricing regulations

When you price your brand, you need to observe the pricing principles and display the price accurately and clearly.

Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA)

The PDPA (personal data protection act) is a law that requires companies in Singapore to obtain the consent of users before they collect, use or share their personal data.

The PDPA became effective on 2nd July 2014. Before that, Singaporean companies had six months to familiarise themselves with the new rules. This period also allowed the companies to align their data protection policies and practices so that they comply with the personal data protection act.

The Formation of the Personal Data Protection Act

During the drafting of PDPA, the primary point of reference was the data protection laws in countries that already had a similar system. These nations included the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.

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Later, the panel overseeing the drafting process conducted three public consultations to seek the opinion of the masses concerning their proposed data protection act. The feedback was mostly positive, and this led to the introduction of the PDPA.

What is Personal Data?

According to the PDPA, personal data is information, true or false, about an individual that can be identified from that data.  It also refers to data that when combined with other information, can lead to the identification of an individual.

How the PDPA Works

The PDPA is a set of rules that govern the collection, use, disclosure, and protection of personal data. It gives the user the right to protect their personal data.

An individual can easily access their data after collection and request a correction if it has errors. Also, a company must have the consent of the user if they wish to share this data with third parties.

Besides consent, a business must inform the user why they are collecting the personal data, as well as how they plan to use it.

Additionally, the PDPA specifies that a business can collect, use or share personal data for purposes that are deemed reasonable in the prevailing circumstances.

Objectives of the Personal Data Protection Act

In this digital era, the majority of companies in Singapore collect, use, and sometimes share massive volumes of personal data in their daily operations. This trend is expected to persist in the future, as advancements in technology make it easier to process large amounts of data.

However, individuals now have concerns over who has access to their private information. The primary objective of the PDPA is to ease these concerns by controlling the way these companies collect, use and share users’ private data.

By regulating the flow of personal data, the PDPA intends to cement Singapore’s status as a trusted global hub for business.

How to Implement PDPA in Your Company

Now that you know how PDPA works and its objectives, here are the best ways of ensuring that your business is compliant with this data protection law.

Obtaining Users’ Consent

The safest way of obtaining PDPA consent is by requesting the customer to sign or acknowledge the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal data.

If your website has opt-in forms, remember to include a footnote that informs the user that your company intends to collect, use, and share the data with third parties (where applicable). You should also specify the purpose of the data collection. Keep in mind that you need separate consents if you intend to use the data for multiple purposes.

The PDPA also stipulates that you cannot compel the users to give you consent so that you subscribe them to a particular product. For instance, if a customer refuses to provide their email address, you cannot bar them from purchasing items on your website. The only exception to this rule is if the information they refuse to provide is critical for that specific transaction.

If you want to send promotional emails and other offers to your clients, make sure that you include a checkbox below your opt-in form.  The customer can then choose whether to subscribe to your promotion or not.

Is it Mandatory to Obtain Consent?

Interestingly, there are some situations where it is not mandatory to obtain consent. The PDPA rules state that a user who voluntarily shares their personal data for a specific purpose in reasonable circumstances is deemed to have given consent for the collection, use, and sharing of such data.

If your team collects large amounts of data from many users, it might be impractical to reach every individual to obtain consent.  In such a scenario, you should seek advice from an attorney who has an excellent understanding of data protection laws.

There are several other exceptions regarding the methods of collecting, using, and disclosing private data. Always consult the PDPA rules before proceeding on this front. You can also seek legal advice if you find it challenging to grasp the law.

Withdrawal of Consent

The PDPA allows users to revoke consent any time they deem it right. If a user wishes to withdraw consent, they must first inform you of their intentions through an email.  You are then required to respond to the request, indicating what you intend to do to the user’s personal data. 

If the user confirms the withdrawal request, you must delete the data entirely from your systems. You should also inform other companies that you might have shared the information with to follow suit. An example of a withdrawal of consent is when a customer unsubscribes from your promotional offer mailing list.

Intellectual property

When you use another entity’s intellectual property, you must follow intellectual property (IP) guidelines such as trademarks.

The digital marketing legislative requirements in Singapore are straightforward and comprehensible. They can help you to develop or enhance your mindset and strategy of digital marketing.

What If You Do Not Comply With PDPA?

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Failure to comply with the PDPA regulation attracts a fine of up to S$1 million. Besides, the oversight authority might order you to delete the data, stop using it or hand it over to a third party.

How PDPA Has Made Marketing Difficult For SMEs

Offline marketing is the traditional mean of approaching your potential customers and usually small businesses contact marketing companies to buy prospect lists so they can reach their target audience. However, there are many flaws associated with this approach besides cold calling strangers and trying to persuade them into something. PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act) in Singapore and APPs (Australian Privacy Principles) have made things difficult for small businesses because now not only do they have to be in compliance with the law but the fines for breaking the laws are too high.

Direct marketing or offline marketing has become difficult because of these main reasons.

  • Small businesses cannot possibly afford equipment and means for adequate data protection. This is not just about protecting the company’s data as a whole from hackers and cybercriminals but it also includes the privacy of customers’ data being intact even during the day-to-day operations. The data should be encrypted all the time and unnecessary data should be deleted securely.
  • Insufficient background information of the marketing company is also a big hurdle. While purchasing the prospect lists, small businesses need to do background checks of the vendor and the process could be costly, time-consuming, and even ineffective in some cases. The buyers must know how the list was curated and how the data was collected.
  • Privacy laws are continuously evolving and businesses need to keep themselves updated all the time. For small businesses, it could be a problem as they need to hire specialized staff for this purpose.

The alternative is online marketing strategies which have proven themselves not only cost-efficient but also more effective than direct marketing strategies. Some of the marketing tactics are publishing great content, interacting with customers and potential buyers via social media, creating videos to attract viewers, use infographics, and developing an attractive website.

Your business website is your online identity and that’s the first thing your potential customers would see while searching for the products or services you offer. Make sure you have a catchy domain name and your website is responsive and performs well. Create a separate section for content on your website and post great content there regularly.

It could be once per day or even once per week but make sure it is periodic because search engines like Google love seeing regular activities on websites. Not only search engines but people would also like to see new content on the website. You don’t have to adopt a sale tone in your content but the purpose of articles and blogs on your website is to provide value and valuable information.

Once in a while, you can mention your products or services but that’s it. Social media can help you reach your target audience based on their age, sex, marital status, geographical location, and other factors. You can target ads specifically to those people to increase your conversion rate.


Handling large volumes of personal data is a challenging task. With the ever-increasing concerns among users over the security of their personal data, complying with PDPA can be useful to your business in Singapore.

Customers are more likely to trust and transact with a company that guarantees the safety of their personal information. Also, adhering to these rules ensures that you remain on the right side of the law. 

Call us today at +65 6789 9852 for more advice on PDPA regulations and digital marketing and website design services in Singapore. 


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