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By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 01 May 2010.
Businesses will have to dramatically rethink their marketing and communication strategies once the Protection of Personal Information (PPI) Bill is enacted into law. Although there is debate around the anticipated date of the enactment of the PPI Bill, it is currently under review and may be passed into law as soon as next month by Parliament after having been approved by Cabinet in August 2009.
The PPI Bill is concerned with the way commercial and non-commercial
organisations view, manage and use personal information. Since personal
information includes mobile numbers and email addresses, the Bill will impact
on the use of electronic corporate communications such as SMS and email.
Currently the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (2002) allow
unsolicited electronic marketing communications to anyone (customers and
non-customers alike), provided individuals are given an option to opt-out and,
on request, senders disclose where they obtained the contact details of the
Under the new PPI Bill, communications that relate to carrying out the
performance of a contract with an existing customer may continue to be sent but
further marketing communications to that customer may only be sent if a
business provided the customer with an opportunity to opt-out of such further
communications at the time when his or her contact information was first
obtained. Unless a business can comply with the above, it will only be able to
send out direct marketing communications if it obtains the explicit consent of
an individual. Furthermore, the Bill stipulates that each marketing
communication sent to customers must include opt-out instructions. Such direct
marketing communications may only be used for a purpose disclosed at the time
the contact information was obtained, e.g. to promote similar products and
services sold by the same business.
Apart from communications required for the performance of a contract, the new
PPI bill allows for a number of other non-marketing electronic communications
that do not require explicit consent from individuals and also do not require
opt-out instructions. These include communications that are required by law, or
communications that are necessary to protect a legitimate interest of the
individual or the business. For the last item, individuals may still object to
receiving such communications on reasonable grounds.
This means that businesses will need to practise extreme caution when
communicating with customers or they could be accused of breaking the law.
Recipients of communications, under the new PPI regulations, will be able to
demand proof of the origin of where their information was obtained as well as
consent for the particular use thereof by a business.
This not only applies to the future collection of information but will need to
be applied to all existing personal information that already resides within the
organisation. Although most companies should be able to prove where and how the
information was obtained, they may now also be required to produce proof of
consent for using data they already have and they also need to be able to show
how this customer information is being protected against possible theft or
In addition, companies will need to implement systems and processes to keep
track of a customer’s preferences relating to the use of personal information
for communications. They will need to honour a customer’s preferred
communication channels as well as exclusions or conditions that may have been
agreed upon. This means that customer communication profiles will become
extremely customised, which may seem like an administrative headache for
companies, but it will lead to more effective communications in the long run.
The net result is that business communications will become more targeted and
therefore more valuable to the recipient.
In the end it is the consumers that stand to receive the most benefits from the
PPI Bill. Provided this legislation is enforced, unsolicited messages are going
to decrease in all electronic communication channels, including SMS.
From a mobile industry perspective, it is encouraging to see that the new Bill
has recognised the benefits of electronic communications for non-marketing
purposes, and great care has been taken to remove unnecessary constraints on
In particular, the Bill prescribes a number of notifications that must be sent
to customers as soon as reasonably possible, for instance: notifications of
data breaches, product recalls or any notifications protecting a legitimate
interest of a customer. SMS messaging is best suited to enable companies to
comply with these new requirements as SMS is the quickest way of sending
critical notifications to a small or large group of targeted individuals
In short, although individuals will enjoy increased control over the messages
they receive and increased rights to the notifications they should receive, it
is up to the business to ensure that these choices and requirements are adhered
to as required under the PPI Bill. Failure by a company to comply with a
customer’s explicit preferences and notification rights will be a contravention
of this new legislation and could result in criminal charges and possible civil