Mar­ket­ing as­so­ci­a­tion ‘does not sell your data’

Body frus­trated by com­plaints

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - STAFF RE­PORTER

HE DI­RECT Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Southern Africa (DMASA) does not sell data to any­one. That’s the un­equiv­o­cal mes­sage re­layed by the DMASA to all the irate call­ers who of­ten ac­cuse the as­so­ci­a­tion of be­ing the cause of the con­sumer or com­plainant be­ing tele­mar­keted.

Alastair Tem­pest, DMASA chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, says: “While we un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by con­sumers when con­tacted re­peat­edly by in­sen­si­tive call cen­tres on be­half of in­surance com­pa­nies or cell­phone sup­pli­ers, we get equally frus­trated when we are ac­cused by the con­sumers of sell­ing their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to cor­po­rates.

“It doesn’t seem to mat­ter how of­ten we ex­plain to call­ers that the only data­base we hold is that of DMASA mem­bers and that all our mem­bers are com­pa­nies, not in­di­vid­u­als. We do not have any databases of non-mem­bers at all, so how on earth can we be re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion we don’t pos­sess?”

The prob­lem lies in the con­stant stream of un­wanted di­rect mar­ket­ing mes­sag­ing with which the con­sumer is bom­barded on a daily ba­sis. Spam­ming (such as un­so­licited com­mer­cial e-mail sent in­dis­crim­i­nately to many mail­ing lists, in­di­vid­u­als, or news­groups; junk e-mail) is the cause of “elec­tronic road rage”.

Un­for­tu­nately, some mar­keters do not ad­here to the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act or the Elec­tronic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Trans­ac­tion Act which cover the con­sumer’s right to re­strict un­wanted di­rect mar­ket­ing through an opt out func­tion, reg­u­late the times dur­ing which mar­ket­ing contact may be made, and give the con­sumer the right to know how the di­rect mar­keter got hold of per­sonal de­tails.

Poloko Motl­ha­bani, DMASA com­plaints co-or­di­na­tor, is re­spon­si­ble for the “do not contact” list held by the as­so­ci­a­tion.

Motl­ha­bani said many con­sumers when call­ing “are of­ten so an­gry that they are past the stage of lis­ten­ing to rea­son” and just want the spam­ming to stop. When they’re ad­vised to reg­is­ter on the list, “they as­sume I’m ask­ing them to ex­pose their de­tails yet again and slam down the phone. Oth­ers were “more rea­son­able”. The list is a proven way of al­low­ing con­sumers to con­trol in­com­ing mar­ket­ing in­for­ma­tion, even giv­ing the con­sumers choices as to which com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels they al­low or for­bid. The sys­tem is de­signed so that in­for­ma­tion logged is se­cure, and can­not be ac­cessed. It is all done au­to­mat­i­cally via the DMASA web­site ( where the con­sumer logs on and fills in the re­quired fields. It takes about six weeks for the in­for­ma­tion to be­come ac­tive.

DMASA mem­ber com­pa­nies clean (“dedupe”) their databases against the list, and con­sumers who have

Topted out will not be con­tacted by mem­ber com­pa­nies. “Con­sumers must re­mem­ber that they have the right to ask any call­ers where they sourced their in­for­ma­tion,” ex­plains Motl­ha­bani.

“I can as­sist a con­sumer far quicker if I have as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble. If the caller is com­plain­ing about a DMASA mem­ber, we can take ac­tion im­me­di­ately: how­ever, if the spam is com­ing from a non-mem­ber we still try to as­sist by con­tact­ing the of­fender and at­tempt­ing to stop the ir­ri­ta­tion. Many are fly-by-night call cen­tres which do not be­long to a recog­nised or­gan­i­sa­tion such as the CCMG.”

At pre­sent, it is not il­le­gal to buy databases from bro­kers in South Africa. How­ever, the new rules laid down by the Pro­tec­tion of Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Act will make it far more chal­leng­ing for bro­kers to trade and will al­low con­sumers to take back con­trol of the use of their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion while en­abling them to protest to those who con­tinue to ha­rass them.

Di­rect mar­ket­ing prac­ti­tion­ers will also have to abide by the law.

The act has been passed by the Na­tional Assem­bly and is ex­pected to be signed into law by the pres­i­dent be­fore the end of the year. Tem­pest and other in­dus­try lead­ers were in­volved in the for­mu­la­tion of this piece of leg­is­la­tion which brings South Africa in line with for­eign coun­tries, where for some time, prac­ti­tion­ers have been re­quired to get con­sumers to opt in be­fore re­lay­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns via elec­tronic chan­nels such as e-mail and SMS.

Tele­phone mar­ket­ing and di­rect mail will re­main “opt out”.

The law will af­fect any busi­ness that has a data­base used for di­rect mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion pur­poses. In ad­di­tion to the afore-men­tioned opt in re­quire­ments, the con­sumer must be told the pur­pose for which any per­sonal in­for­ma­tion will be used, and per­sonal data should not be ex­ces­sive.

Non-com­pli­ance with the act will carry very heavy penal­ties, rang­ing from sub­stan­tial fines to jail terms.

Tem­pest feels com­pa­nies have no rea­son to panic.

“Ac­cord­ing to the planned timetable, busi­nesses will be given a year to com­ply with the reg­u­la­tions when the act be­comes en­force­able. How­ever, the reg­u­la­tor still has to be ap­pointed, and as in this case, it will be a panel, the se­lec­tion process will take time: fund­ing also has to be sourced.

“As a re­sult, we feel the com­pli­ance dead­line will be ex­tended.”

There is a pos­i­tive side to the im­pend­ing leg­is­la­tion, since com­pa­nies will be re­quired to clean their databases in preparation, which means contact with clients, which in turn is an ex­cel­lent PR op­por­tu­nity.

In­for­ma­tion on the Pro­tec­tion of In­for­ma­tion Act can be found on the DMASA web­site, or call 0861 362 362.

FEEL­ING GOOD: An Orchid for Coca-Cola, cel­e­brat­ing South African per­son­al­i­ties by putting their names on bot­tles.

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