A Port Elizabeth firm which is a bulk SMS provider with direct links to the national cellular networks warns consumers to be alert to unauthorized payments to “opt out”.
Right now, more than half (54%) of South Africans live below the poverty line, surviving on R779 or less a month many can barely afford enough food. So to be charged to opt out of unwanted SMS communication puts further pressure on those under financial strain.
“When individuals reply STOP to unsubscribe, they’re having to pay for that SMS to unsubscribe from communication they maybe didn’t even request,” advises SMSPortal managing director Charles Stretch.
In section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) (No. 68 of 2008), it states that consumers not only have “the right to restrict unwanted direct marketing” but that “the consumer may not be charged for opting out or registering a pre-emptive block.”
However, he said consumers were still wrongfully charged to opt-out of unwanted SMS marketing messages.
“By educating the public that they shouldn’t pay to opt-out of SMS communication, consumers can place pressure on organisations who are charging consumers, to stop this unlawful behaviour,” advises Stretch. “These charges can be easily unnoticed by Pay-As-You-Go users and those without itemised billing.”
With the backing of South Africa’s mobile networks, he recommends to organisations using SMS as a marketing tool, to use the “STOP” reply to allow consumers to opt out of unwanted communication.
Marketers should also check that their bulk SMS supplier receives the fee for the “STOP” SMS (not the unsubscriber), who in turn charges its client for the opt-out SMS.
The introduction of POPI – the Protection of Public Information – has been well-documented, and many are opting out of communication, they didn’t request.
“By approaching responsible SMS communication through adherence to POPI, the need for individuals to opt-out of SMS communication shrinks,” said Stretch. “Until then, organisations need to be responsible for their consumers’ right to opt-out.”
If you have been wrongfully charged to opt out, or would like to seek advice, speak to WASPA, the Wireless Application Service Providers Association: https://waspa.org.za.