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By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 08 June 2011.
There is no denying that the launch of a “do not contact registry” to allow South African customers to permanently opt-out of all unsolicited marketing communications is a massive step forward for consumer rights. But customers need to understand the limitations of the mechanism, companies need to be ready to comply with the new law, and especially smaller companies need to consider the implications of having to regularly query the database.
Thanks to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), consumers will be able to add
their contact details to the registry and so block unsolicited direct marketing
communications from all companies. But consumers need to realise that the
registry is somewhat of a blunt instrument – once you have added your details,
you might have to sign up again with companies that you do want to hear from.
The other warning for consumers is that, despite the CPA finally coming into
effect on 1 April 2011, the development of the registry has only just gone out
to tender. Building the registry is no small task, as it needs to allow
companies to quickly query it on a regular basis, and a best guess is that it
will take several months to be set up.
Despite my comments about it being a blunt instrument, the registry is a vast improvement on the current system from a consumer’s point of view:
From an SMS point of view, the registry will go a long way to cutting down on
SMS spam, but only for those on the registry. Recently spammers have been
bypassing industry regulations such as the WASPA Code, by using international
messaging routes. The CPA will apply to all companies including network
operators, regardless of which messaging routes they use.
For those consumers not on the registry, the CPA provides no protection against
spam or the buying and selling of their personal details. This might change
once the Protection of Personal Information Bill (POPI) is enacted. POPI
requires that businesses obtain personal details directly from the data
subject. Businesses may not obtain personal details elsewhere unless they have
explicit consent. Note that this bill has not been finalised, and could still
be watered down due to lobbying from the DMA.
Companies should be gearing up to comply with the CPA once the do not contact
registry becomes available.
But smaller companies who can’t afford the financial and operational overheads
of querying the database themselves need to tread carefully. Companies that do
not query the registry will be unable to legally send direct marketing
communications to their own customers unless they have received explicit
consent, because according the law, if a company doesn’t check the database, it
has to assume that everyone is registered on the do not contact registry.
A solution for these companies is to take advantage of a third party channel
that does interrogate the do not contact registry. Businesses should ensure
that the WASP they choose to send SMS communications does check the registry
once this becomes available, and be sure they are complying with the law.
So smaller companies do have alternatives to the overheads of querying the
registry themselves or face a marketing channel being unavailable to them. Of
course, at the end of the day, playing by the rules is better for the consumer
and the efficacy of companies’ marketing messages.