Direct Marketing Association hits back

Brian Mdluli, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA), hit back at BulkSMS MD Pieter Streicher following his recent article on MyBroadband entitled “Edging towards viable anti-spam legislation.”

Streicher was critical of the dilution of the “opt-in” requirements in South Africa’s new Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Bill and the DMASA’s Do Not Contact (DNC) register “opt-out” system.

Streicher pointed out that the DNC register only applies to DMA members and is a security risk as it is e-mailed out to these members. He added that media reports indicated that the list, which contains information such as identity number and addresses, had already been leaked.

Asked to speak directly to Streicher’s claims, Mdluli provided the following statement.

The DMA did e-mail an encrypted and password protected database to the members and we have subsequently changed the process to a more secure online enquiry system. As per my letter, we did admit to our shortcomings and we learnt a quick lesson and the alleged “leak” came just a week before we were about to launch the secure platform.

The DMA SA has been monitoring the market and we have not seen the data in the market.

Secondly, the DMA SA already represents over 90% of the DM practitioners in the market and we are always ready to assist any practitioner to align to the CPA whether they are members or not. I am currently in PE as we speak and assisting the clients of the Efficient Group to understand the CPA better.

Mdluli’s open letter to Streicher is reproduced below with some minor edits for layout and grammar.

Dear Mr. Streicher,

I trust you are well.

I read a lot of your articles and your fixation with our industry body is truly amazing and starting to worry me a bit. I am aware the organisation that you are affiliated to has tendered against the DMA to administer the new opt out platform but have you seen or heard the DMA write negatively about any other organisation?

No; we have not because we started a positive engagement with all industry bodies to make sure all align for consumer protection. The DMA walked five years with the CPA and we do not use the media platform to create relevance for the work that we do.

The Interactive and Direct Marketing industry employs in excess of 150, 000 deserving South Africans who also happen to be majority subsistence employees and really rely on this industry and by no means am I diluting the consumer rights to privacy and protection, but we all represent constituencies that should be working together to achieve the required balance between consumer protection and the right of an industry to exist.

The DMA has been working very closely with both the DTI and the SALRC to make sure that we achieve this and I wil not let any individual or any organisation detract us from achieving our industry’s goals and dreams to create much needed employment.

I am committed to working with organisations that have a common vision for our industry and as per my commitment to Mr. Leon Perlman of WASPA in my office, I will support any and every organisation whose mandate is commitment to growth of an industry that is consumer-centric.

The DMA is not a commercial entity and as a matter of fact, we represent 95% of responsible direct marketers at the lowest subscription in the communications industry and we have not raised fees in 5 years.

For the DMA, this is a vocation and not a job and the sooner you commit to a positive dialogue with practitioners who are committed to consumer protection, the better for all of us as an industry.

Please always check your facts and read the legislation properly and accurately before using an innocent media platform for self-promotion. At our last public presentation on the CPA you made numerous inaccurate statements that you did not admit to and the South African consumers deserve factual information and not sensational personal views!

We are not perfect as an industry but we are honest about our shortcomings we are on a fast path to 100% alignment with 14 laws that affect our industry and not just one much publicised legislation which the DMA SA was a major player in getting to the market.

Where were you five years ago when we positively engaged with the DTI on a daily basis to make sure that the CPA became a reality is the shortest possible time?

Where were you when we had to transverse the entire country with the DTI to make sure that the consumers understood what the CPA meant for the consumer market?

Where were you four years ago  when the DMA created the Do Not Contact Database for the consumers in order to give the power to the consumers? (Not perfect we understand and admit,  but we have made the necessary strides to align).

Where were you when the DMA had meetings with portfolio committee members to make sure that the contact centre industry which employs a large part of our deserving youth is protected and job losses are kept at a minimum?

Are you willing to assist the DMA and the consumers to find the culprit who broke the trust of the consumers and the industry?

I put it you that you are not willing to help the DMA because you know who the company is that broke the trust and possibly the law!

Honestly answer all of these questions and realise that we are all part of a solution and we have to work together with all the regulators to make sure that we build a society that has access to valuable offers and important information using all available channels within the ambit of the law(s).

Together we can achieve Consumer protection in the shortest possible time if we work together. Herewith, my olive branch. Take it, don’t take it; the DMA SA is pushing ahead to grow our industry and achieve our government’s vision to create jobs and make sure that our consumer market is protected. We welcome the POPI Bill and the CPA and we will align without resistance.

Pieter Streicher’s response

Streicher responded to Mdluli with an open letter of his own, which is reproduced below.

Dear Brian Mdluli,

My fixation is on the issue of opt-in vs opt-out, and only when this relates to communicating with non-clients via SMS and e-mail. The main reason is that with e-mail, the receiver pays for a portion of the communication, and with SMS, any response would come at a cost to the receiver. Secondly, the low cost to the sender makes extremely low conversion rates viable, resulting in the flooding of inboxes with mostly unwanted messages. It is my view that the economic costs associated with these unwanted messages significantly outweigh the economic benefits of the resulting sale.

I strongly support permission based direct marketing via SMS and e-mail, and those companies that are involved in the permission based direct marketing industry. I also regard direct marketing via mediums other than SMS or e-mail as not my concern.

I have no affiliation with any organisation that has tendered against the DMA on the DNCR. BulkSMS.com is a member of WASPA and the MMA, and neither WASPA nor the MMA has tendered against the DMA for the DNCR.

I am not alone in my strong support for an opt-in regime for direct marketing via SMS and e-mail. This is supported by various industry bodies in their respective codes:

These industry bodies deal directly with SMS, e-mail and mobile marketing, hence when it comes to SMS and e-mail usage for direct marketing, these codes are very relevant. In contrast, the DMA deals with direct marketing across ALL mediums. There is clearly a need to align the conflicting views, and my proposal is that the DMA changes to an opt-in regime for SMS and e-mail to non-clients.

I also strongly support the Protection of Personal Information Bill in its previous form (August 2009 version).

If I made any inaccurate statements about the DMA, any legislation or any other issues as alleged, please point this out to me, and I will correct these.

I do regret that I was not involved earlier in engaging on these issues. When WASPA, ISPA and the MMA were formed, I was happy with their opt-in philosophies, and blissfully unaware that anyone was actively lobbying to maintain opt-out regimes. We conducted countrywide workshops with our BulkSMS.com clients in March 2007, already pointing out that legislation (CPA, POPI) would soon change to opt-in, as already specified by the existing industry codes.

I have watched these bills being watered down over time, changing from opt-in regimes to opt-out regimes. I only realised that this was happening because of lobbying from the DMA after attending your presentations at an MMA event late last year, and the CPA events run by the MMA this year.

I am not aware who leaked the DMA DNCR, and I regard this allegation as defamatory. I merely stated at the MMA event earlier this year that e-mailing the list to nearly 400 members, is looking for trouble.

We have a common vision when it comes to economic growth. My view (which differs from yours) is that the economic costs related to unsolicited direct marketing via SMS and e-mail outweigh the economic benefits for the country.

I respect the role that the DMA plays, and I am hoping to convince the DMA and its members of the benefits of an opt-in regime for SMS and e-mail to non-clients. I would gladly meet with you, the DMA, or any of the DMA members to discuss these issues.

Yours sincerely

Pieter Streicher, Managing Director: BulkSMS.com

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Direct Marketing Association hits back