by Fred Roed on 21/07/11 at 3:00 pm
South Africa needs a solid direct marketing opt-out service, but the current outlook is not good. There are movements afoot that you need to be aware of, and a potential solution that Ideate believes might be an answer to the rising level of spam we face on a daily basis. We only have until 29 July to make sure we get a better national opt-out registry.
We all know the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into effect on 1 April this year – we reported on it here and here. In short, the CPA protects our right to privacy. Believe it or not, we actually have the right to ‘opt-out’ of direct marketing. Most people will have encountered direct marketing in the form of a random phone call from somebody wanting to offer you a new mobile phone service or funeral cover. What’s going on behind the scenes is that our personal information is being sold, businesses are constantly interrupting our lives and we are just too familiar with daily SMS spam.
The situation is out of control and we are looking to the CPA for a way out. The supposed solution is something called an ‘opt-out registry’; a database of people who have chosen not to receive spam messages via phone, email or post. Once you’re on it, it becomes illegal for spammers to contact you – and you will be able to legally take action. Now, it so happens that the management of this opt-out registry was put out to tender earlier in the year – in other words, someone needs to look after this database and ensure that your details are in safe hands.
Fox guarding the chicken coop?
Now read this: The National Consumer Commission (NCC) gazetted a notice this month, stating that they are going to name the Direct Marketing Association (DMASA) as the national opt-out registry operator, unless we submit comments and objections before 29 July.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that putting the direct marketers in charge of our national anti-spam protection may not be the best idea.
It turns out the DMA has been operating an opt-out service since 2006. Given our current levels of spam, it’s obviously not been working very well. Their opt-out service requires you to submit your ID number. Earlier this year their entire database of 39000 people was leaked. This amounts to an identity theft nightmare. Just yesterday, it was reported that their website had been hacked. This, in my opinion, is some scary stuff, and personally I’m not that keen to trust these guys with my personal information. Read more here: “Rewarding the DMA for incompetence“.
To a casual observer such as myself, it appears there is a conflict of interest here. Why would an organisation representing the interests of the direct marketing industry want to offer me a way to opt-out of direct marketing?
The National Opt-Out Registry we want
It is my opinion that the national opt-out registry should be run by neutral and trusted party. It should be easy for people to use the service and the right awareness should be created. It must be a free service and it should be operated in a transparent and efficient way. It’s hard to see this happening unless we take some action.
So, how do I take action?
So, after scratching around, it seems that industry bodies can submit formal objections to what’s going on. Details in this notice: NOTICE 460 OF 2011
It’s one thing to complain, but another to find a solution. So here’s my suggestion: Sign up for another alternative. You may remember a talk at a recent Heavy Chef session (run by my digital marketing agency World Wide Creative) by Joe Botha about a new Cape Town startup called TrustFabric. They launched a new service in June which lets you manage your business relationships and communication preferences. The signup process is quick and easy and they already have about 1000 users (seems like they reached a tipping point yesterday with all the noise on Twitter about it). My opinion? I’d MUCH rather see someone like TrustFabric look after the opt-out registry than the DMA.
Their explainer video:
Admittedly, at Ideate, we’re big fans of TrustFabric since the Heavy Chef Session last month, but we’re not the only ones. Read what Tyler Reed had to say on his blog yesterday: TrustFabric - Most Ambitious Startup Ever?
So, what are you waiting for? Get off your butt and do something so we don’t get spammed to oblivion.
[UPDATE: Turns out that TrustFabric are in fact putting forward a proposal to manage the national opt-out registry. All the more reason to make a noise about this.]
Fred Roed is the marketing guy in the Ideate crew. Fred is the CEO of web marketing company World Wide Creative and the co-founder of online learning portal Heavy Chef. Fred loves writing about people out there doing marketing right. Follow Fred on Twitter here. View more articles by Fred Roed.