Defend yourself against direct marketing

Direct marketing refers to any situation where a supplier approaches you to promote or offer to supply any goods or services, according to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Direct marketing takes place when a consumer is either directly or indirectly approached in person, via mail or via electronic communication. If the consumer first approached the supplier, e.g. by logging on to its website or subscribing to the supplier’s newsletter, then marketing from that supplier via the website or newsletter won’t be direct marketing. Adverts on billboards, in publications or online are generally not direct marketing.

Examples of direct marketing

  • if you are handed a flier or find one on your post box
  • an email / WhatsApp /sms / voice message from a supplier, including pre-recorded messages
  • a message in Messenger or on LinkedIn from a supplier
  • someone who supplies goods or services raises their product as a topic at a social event

Both the CPA and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) regulate direct marketing to protect consumers. The CPA includes phone calls in direct marketing, but not POPIA, so if you get a cold call, POPIA won’t apply to that call.

POPI makes it a legal requirement that the consumer must consent to a supplier using their contact information and having it on record and also consent to the supplier contacting them. If the supplier contacts the consumer without this consent, one can lodge a complaint with the Information Regulator, which they will investigate and if appropriate, send an enforcement notice to the supplier. If the supplier does not comply with the enforcement notice, then they are guilty of an offence and their directors can be jailed for up to ten years and a fine of up to R10 million can be imposed on the supplier.

The CPA gives a consumer who bought any product or service the right to a 5 business day cooling off period. The consumer has to give a written cancellation notice to the supplier within 5 business days of having paid (or from delivery, whatever is the latest date) and return what they purchased. The supplier must refund the consumer within 15 business days.

You can also block any future contact from a supplier by telling them not to contact you again. If they do, report their breach of section 11 of the CPA to the National Consumer Commission using the complaint form at https://www.thencc.gov.za/contacts.

If you are a supplier using direct marketing, you will no doubt have some questions on what is acceptable and what can land you in hot water- contact us for all the details.

If you are a consumer being harassed by direct marketing –

  • you can report the complaint to the Information Regulator at https://www.justice.gov.za/inforeg/index.html
  • contact us if you have suffered any loss- in terms of POPIA we can claim damages for you
  • install a caller identification app on your phone and block troublesome callers
  • use ad blocker software on your social media platforms
  • tell any cold caller that you do not consent to their calling you in future
  • The Direct Marketers Association has an opt-out database – if you trust them, you can register at https://dmasa.org/page/how-opt-out
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