The Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) says the DA’s latest SMS campaign over the weekend was unethical.
Consumers should be explicitly informed how to opt out of their database, and requesting an ID number when using their website to opt out was not standard practice, it said.
DMASA CEO David Dickens compared the DA’s marketing tactics to unscrupulous marketing companies which use loopholes in legislation to get the most out of their databases, without having to answer to the currently inactive Information Regulator’s office.
“The Protection of Personal Information Act has been enacted, but it has not been given a regulatory authority as the information regulator has not formally taken office. Companies are finding a lot of loopholes and using this time before this office has any authority to regulate.”
The SMS circulated by the DA warning of impending doom for property rights was harshly criticised and many people demanded to know how to opt out of their database.
While the SMS gave no direction as to how to unsubscribe, the party said on Monday that people could simply reply with the word STOP. They could also opt out on the DA website. This, however, requires your ID number.
DA spokesperson Refiloe Ntsheke denied a sinister motive, saying it was for accuracy.
“For example, if your name is Mary Peaches and there are thousands of other Mary Peaches who still want to get communication from the DA, then the one thing other than your fingerprint that is unique is your ID number. That is why we request it.”
But Dickens said it might just be another data harvesting tactic.
“I believe they’re trying to take advantage of the gap before the regulator opens to collect as much information as they can.”
He added that standard international practice for direct marketing was not to make it difficult to opt out or to exclude such information.
Ntsheke said there was no statutory mandate for SMSes to instruct how to opt out and with a 140 character limit, it was problematic.