Take on spammers, SA urged

2012-08-02 07:30
South Africans tired of SMS spam should use social network tools to vent, an expert has advised. (Paul Sakuma, AP)

South Africans tired of SMS spam should use social network tools to vent, an expert has advised. (Paul Sakuma, AP)

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Cape Town - South Africans who are fed up with companies targeting them with spam SMSes should go on the offensive and use social networks to express dissatisfaction, an expert has said.

"There's quite a lot of recourse that consumers have today; the whole communications landscape has changed. Today, with social networking and with Twitter, every consumer can potentially broadcast their message to the entire world," managing director of BulkSMS.com Dr Pieter Streicher told News24.

He said that the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was not very effective in protecting consumers from spam

"The Consumer Protection Act came into effect in 2011 and it makes provision for people who receive unsolicited messages to opt out, but does not impose any liability on the sender of the marketing material."

The CPA was intended to provide for a mechanism to prevent companies from sending spam or unsolicited messages to consumers and protect identities, but the national consumer commission (NCC) has been dogged by problems.

Dysfunction


An internal report submitted to the trade and industry ministry has raised numerous matters of concern pertaining to the conduct of the NCC.

The NCC is tasked with carrying out legal action on behalf of companies, but Streicher was sceptical about its ability to fulfil this mandate.

"The legislation is reasonably good, but when it comes to enforcement, there are many problems."

He said that companies had realised that they could get away with spam as a result of the dysfunction in the NCC.

"Unfortunately it seems that companies are realising that they can get away with anything and your ordinary consumer is going to suffer as a result," Streicher said.

He advised consumers to publically name and shame companies on platforms like Twitter or HelloPeter to get brands to change behaviour.

"My advice to consumers is that if brands behave in a way that they regard as unacceptable, to simply tweet about that. Consumers have a lot of power today because new communication tools allow them to tell everyone what is happening."

The Protection of Information Bill is designed to give the public greater protection of privacy but Streicher warned that moves were afoot to water down the intent of the proposed legislation.

"This legislation is very promising; unfortunately there are parties that are trying to water it down to change this legislation to an opt out basis as well. It's being done in very sneaky ways: The latest trick that they're trying is to change the definition of consent in the bill."


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