In this country, it's hard to find something that everyone can agree on – but we're fairly certain that we all agree that random "investment opportunity" emails, cold calls from insurance companies and personal-loan SMSes are super-annoying!
Why are we still bombarded with unsolicited and unwanted direct marketing, and how do we stop it?
In terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), each of us has the right to restrict unwanted direct marketing communications – whether it is by telephone, fax (who does that, right?), SMS, email or any similar means. We can refuse to accept marketing communication that we don't want, or cancel the ones we no longer want by opting out or unsubscribing.
In the case of SMS, you can reply STOP to a marketing message, and the sender must remove you from their distribution list.
But how do I stop them from contacting me in the first place?
Unfortunately, we don't have any way of avoiding these messages, other than opting out as soon as we receive them.
But, don't lose hope just yet! Like winter, POPIA is coming. The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) sets new rules for companies who want to market to you directly by phone, SMS and email. Great news, right?
We have been told by the information commissioner that we can expect an effective date in the first half of 2018. Once POPIA kicks off, private institutions will have one year to comply – in our experience, that's not a very long time.
A company must ask you for your permission before they send you direct marketing if you are a potential or "new" customer.
What will change with the commencement of POPIA?
POPIA sets new rules for companies that want to market by means of electronic communication. This includes automatic calling machines, fax, SMS and email.
A company must ask you for your permission before they send you direct marketing if you are a potential or "new" customer. They must ask you to confirm how you want to receive the communication, for example via email or SMS, and for which goods or services. They may only contact you once to get your permission. If you say no, they may not contact you again for the same reason.
If you are an "existing customer" – for instance, if you have previously bought goods or services from the company – they are allowed to market similar goods or services to you until you opt out.
Let's look at an example. I book a weekend trip to the Kruger National Park through my local travel agent. They book flights, car rental and accommodation on my behalf. The travel agent may now send me marketing messages about other trips they have on offer, special prices on flights, car rentals and so forth, but they must always give me the opportunity to opt out of further communications.
They may not, however, send me direct marketing about their courier services. They must first contact me to get my consent to market this "new" service.
Keep informed about privacy
January 28 was International Privacy Day, created to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection. To read more about how you can protect your data and your rights in terms of POPIA, check out this blog series on data and privacy.
Ilze Luttig Hattingh is the director of Novation Consulting