Regulators working to clarify telemarketing concerns under POPIA

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The Information Regulator is in the process of finalising a direct marketing guidance note to provide clarity on how the direct marketing sector should approach marketing in compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

The move comes in response to ongoing challenges faced by South Africans with telemarketers.

Chair of the Information Regulator Advocate Pansy Tlakula highlighted the existence of a potential loophole in POPIA, emphasizing the uncertainty surrounding what constitutes electronic communication in the Act.

Tlakula says, “I think the problem is the interpretation of what constitutes an electronic communication in POPIA, because the act provides that an electronic communication is a message that comes through a text, a voice, or an image which is stored in the network or it is stored in the device of the recipient until the recipient retrieves it.”

“So that is where the problem is with the interpretation of the Act as it pertains to telemarketing. That’s what we are trying to deal with as the regulator.”

Tlakula also expressed concern about SMS and email marketing, pointing out that most companies lack the recipient’s consent to receive these messages.

“Only after you have consented can they then send direct marketing messages to you. If you say no, then a company has to have a database of all the people who have said no, so that they ensure that they don’t contact them again, and I don’t think that this happens,” she adds.

According to the Information Regulator, the forthcoming guidance note aims to address these interpretation challenges and provide clear directives for the telemarketing sector to align with POPIA regulations.

Unsolicited telemarketing calls, is the POPI Act regulating this exploitation?

People who film and share videos of minors without the consent of their guardians could also face up to 10 years imprisonment.

The Information Regulator of South Africa says the Act prohibits the distribution of personal information without the consent of the individual identified in the item being distributed.

Legal experts say there are various provisions for recourse in cases where people are filmed and posted without their consent.

An advocate of the Supreme Court, Professor Leaka Letsoalo says if one is found to be in violation of POPIA, a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment can be imposed.

Member of Information Regulator Alison Tilley elaborates on what the Act really means for the public: