Few things are more frustrating than an unwanted call from a company trying to sell you something while you are at work or at home.
This is especially true if you have never indicated interest in the company or its services.
Fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to prevent this from taking place, both on a software side for your smartphone and on the legislative side in local law.
Apps like Truecaller have been a hit in South Africa, allowing users to identify and block spam calls.
Users still have to pick up their device and look at who is calling, however, before they can see that the call is spam.
On the legal side in South Africa, the Consumer Protection Act states it is illegal for companies to direct unsolicited marketing messages to consumers who have “opted out”.
Opting out of direct marketing communications can be done through the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA).
The DMASA operates the National Opt Out Register and its Do Not Contact (DNC) service.
Once you register to be on the “do not contact” list, the goal is to not receive spam calls or SMS adverts.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
There are two big caveats to the “do not contact” list and your registration on it.
The first is that signing up to the opt-out list does not guarantee all companies will stop calling or messaging you.
The DNC service is only accessible to companies which are members of the DMASA, states the organisation.
This means that if a company is not a member, it cannot access the “do not contact” list and abide by it.
According to an industry player who spoke to MyBroadband, membership to the DMASA is not compulsory for marketing companies.
The second issue is that for a member company to check their phone number database against the DNC service, they must pay a fee each time.
“Over and above [membership] fees, the DMA is charging marketing companies to see if your data is on the list – the charge is R1 per 1,000 checks,” the industry player told MyBroadband.
“This isn’t a once-off or annual subscription to check against those numbers, it is per pull/check.”
This means that if a company has 10 million numbers in its database, it costs R10,000 to check them against the DNC service.
“If you apply that against large aggregators who are sending to millions of numbers per day, what we’d want at a minimum is to check our entire number database once a day.”
“This commercially just isn’t plausible,” said the industry player.
“This leaves operators in the market with two choices – pull very infrequently, or ignore the DMA completely.”
He said this has resulted in many companies in the market not making use of the DMA, as it is too expensive.
“The sad reality is we are being held to ransom in order to do the right thing.”
The DMASA was asked for comment on the opt-out list and its fees, but it did not reply to requests for comment.