Cold callers set to get the cold shoulder - TechCentral

Cold callers set to get the cold shoulder

Mamodupi Mohlala

Are you sick of unsolicited calls and SMSes from people trying to sell you something? Help is on the way thanks to the National Consumer Commission’s (NCC’s) proposed opt-out registry that allows consumers to sign up to prevent direct marketers from contacting them.

But the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMA), the industry body for direct marketers, has expressed an interest in running the registry for the commission, which has outraged some members of corporate SA.

The DMA’s members include people who fill up your e-mail and SMS inboxes with messages you probably don’t want. They argue that the association should not be allowed to run the opt-out registry as there is a direct conflict of interest. They say the current opt-out registry, which the association runs on its own accord, was allegedly leaked in May to non-members, exposing registered consumers to identity theft.

“To expect consumers to submit their details to the Direct Marketing Association is ridiculous,” said Pieter Streicher, managing director of Bulk SMS. “These are precisely the people they don’t want to be contacted by. You just need one rogue employee at one of the member companies and it’s leaked.”

He said the association has an interest in making it as difficult as possible for people to sign up. Joe Botha, CEO of TrustFabric.com, said that operating the national opt-out registry is a great responsibility.

“It should be run by a trusted and independent entity and it should be very user-friendly,” he said. “Requiring users to provide ID numbers, as the association does, is a very bad idea.”

Stakeholders argue that the alleged leaking of the association’s registry earlier this year illustrates the fact that it is unsuitable to run the opt-out registry.

ITWeb reported on the alleged leak, stating that the details of 39 000 registered consumers had been compromised. The allegations occurred at the time the consumer commission was evaluating expressions of interest from parties to run the opt-out registry.

Association CEO Brian Mdluli said his organisation had still not seen any evidence of the leak, but emphasised that it has spent millions developing a secure software platform for the registry. “The alleged leak happened two days before the new platform was put in place. If we find the person who leaked the registry we will take legal action against him or her.”

Mdluli denied that there would be any conflict if the association were to run the registry, saying it would ensure its members stick to a code of best practice. According to the Government Gazette published on July 8, three parties — the association, Stephen Logan Attorneys and Deloitte Consulting — expressed interest in running the registry for the consumer commission.

Some stakeholders argue that the commission should put the registry out to tender because it has, up to now, called only for expressions of interest and for public comment on its call for expression of interest, setting a deadline of 29 July for them to be submitted.

National consumer commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said the commission is still in the process of identifying the preferred service provider. “The advertisement that was placed in the Sunday Independent was to indicate that if there are members of the public who believe it would be inappropriate to appoint the DMA they are being given an opportunity to engage with the NCC on this point and make submissions as per the notice in the Government Gazette,” she said.

“We therefore welcome submissions on the suitability of the DMA to provide the opt-out register for the NCC and these will be taken into account prior to a final decision being made on the service provider to provide the opt-out register.”  — Lloyd Gedye, Mail & Guardian

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