A MyBroadband reader recently received a number of direct marketing SMSs from Old Mutual and said they did not conform to the rules governing SMS advertising.
The Financial Services Board (FSB) made a number of changes to the Policyholder Protection Rules (PPRs) in July 2018, which require companies to adhere to standards regarding direct marketing through calls, SMS, or voice messages.
According to the rules, recipients of insurance advertising via a call, SMS, or voice messages must be able to opt out of future direct marketing from the company in question.
Additionally, no insurer may charge recipients any fee for opting out of the advertising via SMS.
While the PPRs do not specify which entity must carry the cost of an opt-out SMS – the company or the network provider – they prohibit the service provider or insurer from charging customers.
This is outlined in Rule 10 of the PPRs, which state that ““the advertisement must allow the policyholder the opportunity to demand that the insurer or other person does not publish any further advertisements to the policyholder through any of the listed mediums”.
“The insurer may not charge a policyholder a fee or allow a service provider to charge a policyholder any fee for making a demand.”
Old Mutual SMS
The reader said that while the marketing SMSs from Old Mutual included an option to opt out, he was charged a network fee when replying.
The SMS advertised Old Mutual’s funeral plan and asked recipients to reply with “YES” to learn more about the product or “STOP” to opt out.
One of the SMSs received by the user is reproduced below.
Old Mutual: Cover yourself, family, parents, grandparents & extended family with our Funeral Plan. Reply YES (FREE) for a call STOP to opt out. FSP.Ts&Cs
The user replied to these messages and noticed that he was charged for replying via SMS.
He tested this multiple times and confirmed that responding to this SMS in an effort to opt out of the direct marketing led to him being charged R0.82 per message.
Old Mutual responds
Following questions from MyBroadband, Old Mutual said it was not its policy to charge customers for opt-out SMSs, adding that affected users should contact their mobile operator regarding these charges.
“It’s not old Mutual’s policy to charge customers a fee for opting out of SMS marketing campaigns,” the company said.
“A person who is charged an opt out fee must contact their service provider to query the matter.”