The modern battlefield of Direct Marketing

The modern battlefield of Direct Marketing

The modern battlefield of Direct Marketing

One often feel overwhelmed by all these rules and how to comply with legislation, but in essence  the main objective of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is simply to provide a fair and sustainable market place for consumers. 

Bearing this in mind, it is far easier to comply with legislation knowing that your business, in complying, acts ethically and reputably and that your customers hopefully share the same values as those of your company.

One of the major difficulties and frustrations often experienced by consumers relates to direct marketing. So, what can you, as a supplier of goods and services, do to ensure that you provide a “fair market place” on the battlefield of direct marketing?

For ease of reference, this article recapitulates the definition of “direct marketing” as provided for in the CPA and provides an overview of various modern applications which are often overlooked as a direct marketing practice.

What is direct marketing?

In plain terms, direct marketing means approaching a person, either in person or through electronic communication, for the purpose of promoting or offering to supply goods or services (in the ordinary course of business).  The CPA includes several rules and regulations for direct marketing, but so does the Electronic Communication and Transactions Act with regard to electronic communication.

Direct marketing seems to be rather old fashioned and, in many instances, we don’t necessarily make use of this marketing method. Let me put a new jacket on this old topic.

Apart from the well-known cold canvassing and telesales / call centre practices as a form of direct marketing, the following activities can also be considered direct marketing:

  • Looking up geotags and hashtags created by consumers of your competitors and sending them direct messages on social media with your offer or promotion;
  • Looking up geotags and hashtags created by your own consumers and sending them a personalised direct message on social media to thank them for supporting you and inviting them to come again by advertising another offer or promotion;
  • Sharing live streams on Facebook or Instagram promoting your product or making an offer to consumers. This pushes a notification directly to the consumer’s phone where they are presented with the option of watching the proposal for the products you are selling; or
  • Sending consumers WhatsApp messages to promote your goods and services.

The above-mentioned is only a few of the modern direct marketing methods that can be used. Just because you are not physically knocking on your consumer’s door does not mean you are not making direct contact with them. Using social media for direct marketing purposes simply makes it easier for consumers to “opt-out” instead of having to beg someone to leave their porch. Having said this, the Consumer Protection Act by no means opposes direct marketing, but merely provides a framework within which you should conduct your direct marketing efforts.

Tips to consider when making use of modern or traditional direct marketing methods (*the list mentioned above along with telemarketing, door-to-door selling, etc.)

  • Always include an “opt-out” option in all your direct marketing efforts as the consumer has the right to refuse any approach or communication if it is solely for the purpose of direct marketing;
  • If a consumer asks you not to contact them again for direct marketing purposes, you are prohibited from doing so. You should therefore ensure that you have systems in place to accommodate such demands;
  • Ensure that the photos or descriptions (used as samples) are a true reflection of the actual product to be delivered to your consumers. If these products differ from the sample provided and consequently are not fit for purpose, the consumer will have the right to return these goods to you within 10 days at your expense and to ask for a full refund;
  • If the transaction was made online (with or without direct marketing efforts) the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act provides that the consumer may return these goods within 7 days (without reason or penalty) at his or her own expense;
  • If the transaction took place due to your direct marketing endeavours, the consumers have 5 days to return the goods (without reason or penalty); and
  • Ensure that direct marketing activities fall within the prescribed periods as prescribed by the CPA. The Act prohibits engaging in direct marketing efforts, whether modern or traditional, during the following periods:
    • Sundays, or public holidays provided for in the Public Holidays Act, 1994
    • Saturdays before 09:00 and after 13:00
    • All other days between the hours of 20:00 and 08:00 the following day, except to the extent that the consumer has expressly or implicitly requested or agreed otherwise.

For more information on this topic, you can also read our two-part series on “Direct Marketing versus the Consumer Protection Act and POPI Act" part 1  and part 2.

Whilst the main focus of the Consumer Protection Act is on compliance, our approach at SERR Synergy is to implement compliance in such a way that it provides business value to our clients and allows for improvements in efficiencies and effectiveness by means of compliance requirements. SERR Synergy assists enterprises to conduct business in an ethical manner and to promote and protect the reputation of their businesses.

About the Author: Monique Rossouw completed her BConsumer Science degree at the University of Pretoria. She joined our team in July 2018 and currently holds the title of “Information Compliance Advisor”. She specialises in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act as well as POPI and PAIA. This includes compiling legal compliance reports and developing policies along with the other assessment aspects relating to consumer protection legislation. She drafts and submits PAIA manuals to the Human Rights Commission and also compiles and implements Data and Information Protection Reports to identify risks associated with information security in each department of an organisation.  


Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008

Electronic Communication and Transaction Act 25 of 2002

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