Telemarketers beware!

2009-08-29 00:00

A STRICT law to crack down on any institution that discloses personal information without good reason has been accepted by cabinet.

In terms of the law, no institution will be allowed to sell people’s personal information.

The legislation requires that each person on such a list be contacted and give his or her permission for the information to be sold.

Moreover, telemarketers may phone a member of the public only once. Should the person indicate to the telemarketer during the call that he/she may never be phoned again, the marketer may never do so.

The cabinet has already given its permission for the legislation to go to parliament. The government wants the legislation to be on the books before hundreds of thousands of overseas visitors come to attend the Soccer World Cup next year.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which drew up the legislation, released details of it for the first time yesterday. In terms of the legislation, the information protection net is being cast very wide and any organisation, “from churches to banks, schools and the video store where you do business” will expose itself to criminal prosecution if it does not have measures in place to safeguard people’s personal information.

Ananda Louw handled the commission’s investigation, which started as far back as 2003. She said the legislation will bring South Africa in line with about 50 other countries that already have such strict laws.

Once the JSC had completed its probe, during which broad consultation took place, including with the Direct Selling Association, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe dealt with the proposed legislation much more quickly than is usually the case with legislation from the commission, said Louw.

Louw says the legislation makes provision for an information regulator who will exercise oversight over institutions that hold information. If such institutions are warned to acquire systems to safeguard the information and ignore the warning, they could be liable for criminal prosecution.

International requirements regarding the protection of information, the high incidence of identity theft, and “the powerful computer systems of our times” have made the legislation essential.

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