What POPIA means for MTN SMS marketing

Several MTN subscribers recently complained to MyBroadband that they receive a flood of SMS spam from the mobile network.

The mobile network operator recently addressed an issue that seemed to prevent its customers from unsubscribing from MTN marketing messages.

While companies are currently able to send direct marketing messages to any e-mail address or cellphone number they can lay their hands on in South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) aims to crack down on this practice.

Under the Consumer Protection Act, all direct marketing in South Africa must include a way to opt out of receiving further communications from the company sending it out.

With POPIA the restrictions on direct marketing will shift from being opt-out by default, to opt-in by default. Companies will have to get consent from consumers before they are allowed to send marketing messages to them.

In the case of companies like MTN, which have an existing relationship with a customer, the rules are slightly different.

They will be allowed to send direct marketing messages if the customer was given a chance to opt-out when they opened their account. These messages can only promote similar products or services to what you bought from them initially.

MTN committed to POPIA

When asked how it will approach these new restrictions on direct marketing, the MTN executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa, Jacqui O’Sullivan, told MyBroadband that the company is committed to POPIA and that all necessary measures have been put in place to ensure full compliance.

“There are strict definitions in place on what constitutes mandatory communication to customers, what are new services and what are public service announcements.”

For its mobile money (MoMo) services, MTN committed to putting the following in place:

  • Building an MTN-owned consent database where it will keep a record of all MoMo customers together with a flag indicating the “In” or “Out” status.
  • MTN will always check the list it intends to market to the consent database first, and remove those who have opted out.
  • MTN will then check its intended send list against the main MTN consent database to exclude subscribers who have opted out of all direct marketing. It will then update the MoMo consent database.

POPIA came into effect on 1 July 2020. Companies have been given at least a year’s grace within which to comply with the promulgated law.

Now read: The reason Dischem continued to send SMS spam to a user who had replied STOP

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What POPIA means for MTN SMS marketing