In the November 2006 issue of Entrepreneur, we alerted readers to the fact that tough new data privacy legislation is set to impact marketers in South Africa early in 2007, forcing them to change the way they reach consumers.
The latest development is that two draft Bills – the Protection of Personal Information Bill and the Consumer Protection Bill – have been delayed and will only come into effect later this year.
Nonetheless, the bills will change the way information is stored and handled by list owners and users, and give all personal information confidential status. Positive consent will be required for unsolicited marketing.
In brief, the Department of Trade and Industry aims to provide a broad framework for consumer protection in South Africa and to promote consistency, coherence and efficiency in the implementation of consumer laws. The objectives of the bills are to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services; responsible consumer behaviour; and a consistent enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements. They also aim to prohibit unfair marketing andbusiness practices and provide for improved standards of consumer information; harmonisation of laws relating to consumer transactions and agreements; and the establishment of the National Consumer Commission.
Michelle Perrow, who represents the direct marketing industry, answers some important questions:
What Effect Will The Bills Have On Companies That Use Direct Mail? Once passed, the bills will restrict organisations from marketing without express permission. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) aims to self-regulate and to encourage organisations to request permission from consumers to send communication to them.
How Should Companies Start To Prepare Themselves For This Eventuality? One of the DMA’s key focus areas is the building of an opt-out database. Consumers who do not want to be marketed to can register on this database. Member companies of the DMA will be required to de-duplicate their data against it prior to sending out any communication. The DMA has been encouraging all marketers to act responsibly and get their databases in order ahead of the passing of the bills. All organisations that communicate across any channel with customers or prospects need to examine their communication activities. Agreements, forms, websites, and SMS messages should all be used to gain consent from the consumer. Organisations need to look at every possible touch point, from call centre to sales reps and ensure they invest a rigorous effort into permission marketing. That is how they will secure a bright marketing future.
What Are The Likely Punitive Consequences For Non-Compliance With The Bills? Once the bills become acts, they can be enforced through investigation, notices to cease unlicensed practices, issuance of compliance notices, objections, consent orders and authority to enter and search under warrant.