UAE to set fines, rules for cold calling; residents recount most annoying encounters

For most, these marketing calls are nothing but annoying distractions — for some, however, it's a job


Kirstin Bernabe

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Photo: Reuters file
Photo: Reuters file

Published: Sat 18 May 2024, 1:16 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 May 2024, 8:37 PM

Despite attempts to curb the practice, unwanted sales calls continue to pester UAE residents. The government has taken a step to tighten regulations on cold calling — and, soon, penalties shall be introduced.

While most would get one-off calls from marketers, Dubai resident Allaine Galvez's experience was quite extreme: A "forex trading guy" kept calling her for about four months.

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"I was looking for a job at that time. He called me and asked if I wanted to invest in a foreign exchange trading platform. I told him I don't have the money to invest as I don't have a job," she told Khaleej Times.

Galvez, who now heads an HR team, thought that was the end of it — until the man called again and again, using different numbers. "He kept asking if I already found a job and if I am interested to invest."

A UAE law could put an end to such practices.

The Cabinet has approved a decision to regulate cold calling during its meeting earlier this week.

Guidelines would be set for telemarketing practices and obligations shall be established for companies, according to a statement from the Dubai Media Office.

There will be penalties for violations, too, it added. Federal and local authorities will be working together to enforce the regulations.

A 'difficult job'

To most UAE residents, these marketing calls are nothing but annoying distractions in the middle of a busy day — to some, however, it's a job.

Mitchel Cervales, a 27-year-old expat who lives in Dubai, once experienced what it's like to be the one making those cold calls.

"It's a difficult job. After all, who wants to get slammed at over the phone several times a day?" said Cervales, who quit the job after two weeks.

He recalled being given a list of numbers to call and a script of what he was supposed to say.

"Our performance is measured based on the number of people that we're able to convince to sign up and invest," Cervales said. "None of the people I called signed up, so I thought the job wasn't for me."

9 in 10 calls are 'unwanted'

Eric Saguil, another UAE resident who works in a design firm, makes it a point not to miss any calls.

"Who knows? It could be someone calling about a job opportunity or perhaps a new colleague," he said.

This makes a random marketing call a lot more frustrating for him. "I can say that out of 10 calls I get from strangers, nine would be from these forex traders, banks, sales people. It's a big trouble, especially when I'm in the middle of a busy work day."

Current solution

While the law on cold calling is yet to be rolled out, residents have a way out of these callers' radars.

In 2022, UAE authorities introduced the Kashif initiative — which automatically registers companies in a caller ID services. This means, when an unknown caller pops up, the company linked to the number appears on the recipient's phone. This can help residents decide whether to take the call or not.

If blocking numbers won't work, one can also sign up in the UAE's 'Do Not Call Registry (DNCR)'. By registering, one indicates that he/she does not want to receive telemarketing and promotional calls.


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