Unsolicited marketing can be e-mail, phone calls and SMS messages from marketers and are common these days. It is important for the consumer to know their rights, says Warren Moss, Managing Director of Demographica,
South Africa's largest digital email advertising company
With the consumer in mind the first law that applies and encompasses all facts of direct marketing is the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which aims to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and to establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection. In addition, it provides for improved standards of consumer information and to prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices to promote responsible consumer behaviour.
The CPA protects the consumer by placing certain obligations on the marketer or seller of goods and services. This law along with the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT) applies to any form of communication by e-mail, SMS, MMS and other forms of electronic communications and is intended to provide protection to South Africans from unscrupulous marketers.
Moss says, “Consumers have every right to question 'special offers' being presented to them and request the actual costs even if the marketer says the offer is free. Consumers also have the right to request that they be removed from digital marketing lists and request proof of opting in to such marketing.”
“The intention of the marketer and the cost of the offer also needs to be disclosed in full and it needs to be done so in a manner that the recipient of the call can fully understand,” he adds.
A consumer also has the full right to refuse the deal and also to request that his or her details are removed from the marketing list or provide a method to unsubscribe from the list.
The act’s spam laws are to be replaced by those in the imminent tabling of the Protection of Personal Information Bill in parliament. Section 66 of the proposed legislation says companies may not carry out direct marketing “by means of automatic calling machines, facsimile machines, SMSes or electronic mail” unless very specific conditions are met, which will further protect South Africans from unscrupulous marketers intent on profiteering on unsuspecting public.
The marketers will only be allowed to communicate with existing customers who have given their permission, and then only when selling something similar to what was original bought. This does not include cold calling by humans but other legislation like the CPA limits the hours during which companies may phone.
These new Acts will have far-reaching implications for the digital dissemination of direct marketing messages. One of the primary reasons for this is that it is not only the data provider or media owner that will be held responsible if they contravene the law, but the entire channel. The end-customer or advertiser will be equally liable – which will make them think twice about using service providers or lists that do not comply with provisions in the Act.
To conclude says Moss, “These CPB and PPI Bills are intended to protect the consumer from being ‘conned’ into accepting services or products through direct marketing under the premise of a special offer and consumers need to be well aware of their right to refuse any offer, request that they be removed from the marketing list and be allowed a channel for recourse should the offer not be as described over the phone or on email.”