Marketing association ‘does not sell your data’
Body frustrated by complaints
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 (www.dmasa.org) 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 www.dmasa.org, or call 0861 362 362.
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