Start-up TrustFabric preempts consumer act - TechCentral

Start-up TrustFabric preempts consumer act

Joe Botha

Founded in 2010, Cape Town-based start-up TrustFabric wants to give consumers control over how businesses are allowed to contact them, while letting businesses keep their customer databases up to date.

Under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which came into effect on 1 April, consumers are entitled to refuse direct marketing. TrustFabric defines a preemptive block registry where people can opt-out of direct marketing.

TrustFabric provides “vendor relationship management” (VRM) infrastructure for businesses and individuals. Businesses use customer relationship management software to manage relationships with their customers. VRM, in turn, allows customers to manage their relationships with businesses.

TrustFabric Connect differs from other opt-out services in that it doesn’t require an ID number to register, and customer details are secured and encrypted. Businesses that sign up can submit an encrypted customer database and customer details are only unencrypted when a match with a particular business database is recognised.

TrustFabric CEO Joe Botha says many businesses’ customer databases have “low data quality” in that they include outdated information and information about customers they may no longer actually have. Because individuals can update their own information, and because companies they have deemed trustworthy also have access to this information, updating details is easier and creates higher quality data for businesses.

For companies, TrustFabric Connect costs less than R5 per customer per year. The service is free for individuals, small businesses and educational institutions. In terms of uptake, Botha says he is “happy with the response from businesses. Eleven signed up in the first week after we launched, including Skyrove and Lexus Helderberg.”

Botha says TrustFabric is hoping to sign up 150 000 users in its first year. “That might be a bit optimistic, but I suspect we are providing a solution to a very real problem, something which has been overlooked for far too long.”

The traditional concept of an opt-out list results in a “blunt instrument”, says Botha. He says traditional opt-out lists don’t allow for exception lists or sufficient control over information that may result in a blanket “no” from most people.

Asked how TrustFabric will integrate with the CPA, Botha says the law will have to be tested and that only through this process will precedents be created. TrustFabric hopes to afford businesses the opportunity to become compliant in anticipation of the legislation rather than in response to it.

TrustFabric Connect is currently in beta, and Botha is reluctant to commit to a deadline for ending the beta phase. “Going out of beta means putting your head on the block and saying that nothing can go wrong. We’re introducing new features gradually, and working to attract the right sort of vendors. Once we have more businesses on our books and we’re entirely happy with our product, we’ll look at dropping the beta.”  — Craig Wilson, TechCentral

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