SMSPortal, South Africa’s R300million bulk SMS provider highlights an innovative service which will ensure clients operate mobile marketing campaigns within the law, allowing consumers to OPT OUT for free, and abiding by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) (No. 68 of 2008).
SMSPortal offers reverse billed SMS to its new and existing clients. In short, this allows consumers to send an SMS reply or to opt-out of direct marketing free of charge. The mobile networks will reverse bill SMSPortal R0.50 for every incoming SMS reply, who will then in turn pass this cost onto clients at the same fee, R0.50 per SMS.
This service has been put into effect due to the explicit wording within the CPA. The Act provides consumers the right to privacy which includes the option to opt-out (STOP) SMS or to pre-emptively block any approach or communication for the purpose of direct marketing. The Act specifically states that a consumer may not be charged to unsubscribe in this manner (refer section 11(5) of the Act in attached document).
The wording is such that any charge levied to the consumer whereby the consumer is opting-out or registering a pre-emptive block would be a contravention of the Act.
All direct marketers must ensure that the appropriate and legal procedures are in place to facilitate the receipt of opt-out demands. And in no way can an organisation knowingly deliver any communication for the purpose of direct marketing to a consumer who has either unsubscribed or registered a pre-emptive block.
“Networks and bulk SMS providers need to act with the consumer in front of mind to combat unwanted SMSs and ensure their privacy. The ideal solution would be for networks to reverse bill the bulk SMS service provider who then charges its client for the opt out SMS.” Says Charles Stretch, SMSPortal’s MD. “The industry needs to be accountable for the use of their services and police that it’s not being abused and ensure SMS recipients are not being contacted unwantedly.”
The regulations within the Act clearly states that all organisations must assume that every consumer has a comprehensive pre-emptive block registered against their name and therefore may not legally receive any direct marketing unless the consumer has given specific written consent wishing to receive such communication.
Stretch added that: “The emphasis should not be on the consumer to opt out, but on the direct marketer to act responsibly with personal information they hold.”
Consumers however, should be informed and encouraged to report to their mobile network provider or WASPA (South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Provider’s Association), if they are charged to opt-out from direct marketing.
With consumers increasingly more aware of their rights, businesses should be reviewing their marketing strategies to ensure that they meet the required obligations and restrictions as set out in the CPA. Not only will this meet legal requirements but will ensure a positive brand perception and brand loyalty amongst its target audience. A number of leading retailers and financial institutions are already using Reverse billed SMS.
Reverse billed SMS is the way forward for companies wanting to increase responses to their marketing campaigns, to improve clients perceptions of the company and to adhere to the regulations set out in the Consumer Protection Act which has been in effect since 1 April 2011.
Author: Judy Venter
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