The Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia) came into effect in July 2020 and was fully implemented a year later. Yet spam calls – unsolicited phone calls from marketers – have not stopped plaguing South Africans.
Although cold calling is not specifically prohibited by Popia, consumers have to opt in to receive such calls.
The act prohibits the processing of personal information of a “data subject” (a consumer) for the purpose of direct marketing unless consent is secured, or the call (or e-mail or SMS) is to an existing customer.
The legislation also requires that a responsible party must request a data subject’s consent before it can send unsolicited communications and that the data subject must not have previously withheld such consent.
Furthermore, the “responsible party” (the company doing the marketing) may only process personal information of a data subject who is a customer of the responsible party.
If consent was previously given (prior to Popia), marketers still need to ask for consent via the first call. This is where marketers ask the consumer if they would like to receive communication pertaining to their products and services. If consent was given prior to Popia’s enactment, this consent must be updated and an opportunity to opt out must be provided.
The Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMA) told TechCentral that Popia is mainly there to protect the personal information of consumers, including ID numbers. Although cold calling is not prohibited by the act, it can still be stopped, the DMA said.
National opt-out database
“If you are the recipient of unsolicited telesales or cold calling, you should request the telemarketer to refrain from contacting you again (that is, you should opt out), which they would have to comply with in terms of the Consumer Protection Act,” the DMA said in response to questions.
Another tool in the fight against spam is for consumers to opt out of direct marketing through the DMA. The organisation operates a “do not contact” service and the national opt-out database, in which users can register their details to indicate to DMA members that they do not wish to be pestered by unsolicited calls and marketing messages.
Once on the list, marketing agents that are members of the DMA cannot contact you (unless they have permission to do so). Although this does not deter scammers and non-DMA members from calling anyone, it should reduce the volume of telemarketer calls for most people.
Once on the list, marketing agents that are members of the DMA cannot contact you (unless they have permission to do so)
The DMA said consumers will still receive cold calls because some companies might not fully comply with the rules and take a chance by being non-compliant. However, they risk being fined — and possibly even jailed — for abusing, selling, losing or unlawfully using personal information.
A spokesman for the Information Regulator, which was created to enforce Popia, said in response to questions from TechCentral that it has not done an assessment of the spam call problem. However, the regulator has received multiple complaints about spam calls from members of the public. – © 2022 NewsCentral Media