Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia) may not be in force yet, but it will affect the way marketers package information fundamentally, said lawyer Elizabeth de Stadler at the recent IAB Digital Summit.

Popia will regulate all direct marketing, including digital direct marketing, in terms of how personal information is collected, used secured and disposed of. “At present direct marketing in SA involves largely unsolicited e-mails or SMSs,” said De Stadler, adding that it’s essentially an opt-out world. That, however, will all change once Popia comes into play.

The new regulation requires list users to obtain consent even from existing names on lists – unless individuals were specifically told they would be marketed to and that there is an unsubscribe option.

“It’s going to be much harder to buy lists,” said De Stadler. “Businesses who market by using lists will need to know where personal information came from: did customers give permission for the company to contact them? Once they have given permission they need to be offered the option to unsubscribe by means of a respectful opt-out option.”

A number of rules will apply to consent: it can’t be structured in such a way that the service provider withholds access to the service; recipients need to be given an idea of how often they will be contacted; and tacit permission needs to be obtained rather than permission being assumed.

“There is no doubt that it’s going to be harder getting leads in the future and that organisations that buy lists will need to be very circumspect about who they buy data from,” De Stadler said, adding that companies that care about their customers won’t sell their details to third parties.

Her advice to marketers is to make sure they know where their lists come from and to check whether current marketing communication asks for consent before sending content. But perhaps most importantly, said De Stadler, “make sure your content is seen as solicited content or as part of your service offering.”

The big take-out:

Popia will fundamentally change direct marketing, including digital direct marketing, by regulating how personal information is used and shared.