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Estate agents must understand the POPI act

21 May 2015

The new Protection of Personal Information (POPI) act will affect direct marketers and protect consumers.

While the legislation will force direct marketers to get consent from recipients, the legislation goes one step further and also provides that consent may only be requested once, making sure that the consumer will not be harassed for consent, says Erasmus.

This is according to Linda Erasmus, CEO of Fine & Country International Realty sub-Saharan Africa, who says she welcomes this piece of legislation as it gives proper guidelines to direct marketers and consumers alike.

Any person, whether owner or operator of a company, will encounter some form of marketing in cyberspace. 

Personal information includes the name and email address of a person and processing of such information is limited by law. Once a party has given his or her consent, he or she may receive newsletters or marketing material from a company or its responsible person.    

While the legislation will force direct marketers to get consent from recipients, the legislation goes one step further and also provides that consent may only be requested once, making sure that the consumer will not be harassed for consent.

A direct marketer may therefore only approach a person who has not previously withheld consent, says Erasmus.

The general practice of obtaining consent when a purchaser is in the process of buying a product from a company is also addressed in the Act. While dealing with such a customer, a company may now get consent from the customer to keep him or her informed of future similar products on the market.

When sending marketing communications via the internet, the material must have the details of the sender or the person who authorised the sending of the message displayed. Other than such identification, the contact details of the sender must also be available.

While many direct marketers may not be pleased with this legislation, Erasmus says she firmly believes that direct marketing on the internet has greatly lost its value due to it becoming an irritation rather than an add-on value to users of products.

“The dream of every internet user today is to deal only with relevant and necessary emails because time is the one thing we cannot buy, and reading unsolicited emails has become a time-waster of note.”

According to Lara Colananni, a conveyancer at Guthrie Colananni Attorneys, the rights created in the POPI Act are most welcome, and bring South African e-law in line with international legal standards.

Before the introduction of the new legislation, she says online companies were free to treat cyberspace as a platform on which marketers could reach countless customers without reservation or accountability.

Trends nowadays are to balance the rights of the marketer with those of the customer. The customer has a right of choice regarding the companies from which material will be received and the content of such material.

“In addition to that, the customer’s right to privacy will determine what may be done with information about them, especially in cyberspace. POPI has come to the rescue.”

Erasmus says it is important to note that section 45 of the Electronic and Communications Act that previously referred to SPAM has been repealed by this section of the POPI Act. 

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