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News Room

Spam and Scam – Opt Out For Good

South Africa ranks fifth in the world of top countries affected by spam callers. End the harassment, know your rights and OPT OUT.
According to the ‘Truecaller Insights Top 20 Countries Affected by Spam Calls’ report for last year, South Africa came in fifth place in terms of the number of spam calls consumers receive every single month. Next in line came Chile, Brazil, USA and the top offender – India. This may come as no surprise to many. There is barely a week that goes by without the average person receiving a call from some company trying to sell you something. This is usually while you're having lunch or driving or at work. Or, somebody added you to a mailing list without your permission or knowledge. Now you have to go through a ten-step process to unsubscribe yourself. How rude. Truecaller is an app which allows users to identify unknown incoming calls. It also give you the option of blocking unwanted callers and spam messages. According to Truecaller, only 1% of our intrusive calls are marked as scam calls. 39% of them come from telemarketing, 24% financial and 13% from insurance companies. Debt collectors, surprisingly, only made up 3%.  

Opting Out Of Spam

Annoying, unwanted spam is on the rise all around the globe. In some markets, the average Truecaller app user could receive up to 20 spam calls a month. In South Africa, we’re constantly bombarded and harassed and hassled. The direct marketing industry reportedly employs more than 150 000 people. The average call centre agent logs around 1600 calls a month. You do the math. Luckily for us, South Africans can add themselves onto the DMA National OPT OUT Database, and so avoid calls from their members. And now, we can opt out of SMS spam too… Last year, the Financial Services Board (FSB) published a draft replacement of the Policyholder Protection Rules, granting consumers the right to opt out of SMS spam from insurance companies. Speaking in an interview, senior specialist for the Insurance Regulatory Framework department at the FSB, Lezanne Botha, said:
“There is existing consumer-protection legislation in place in the form of the Consumer Protection Act. But it's important to bear in mind that the Consumer Protection Act does not apply to insurers.”
Botha went on to assert that it could be said that financial services industries should be held to a higher standard of consumer protection than other industries. This is because of the risks and the failures in that these products can actually impose considerable hardships for consumers. With the new regulations, the South African insurance industry finds itself in-line with international standards. This is great for consumers who, in the past, have had nothing to protect them against unwarranted direct marketing.
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No Charge

For those who didn’t get around to this bit of news last year, the draft stated:
13.10 Unwanted direct marketing 13.10.1 An insurer or any person acting on its behalf must afford a policyholder to whom it markets a policy through a mobile phone voice or text message the right to demand during or within a reasonable time after the message that the insurer or person acting on its behalf desist from initiating any such further messages or any other communication. 13.10.2 An insurer or any person acting on its behalf may not charge a policyholder a fee or allow a mobile phone service provider to charge a policyholder any fee for making a demand in terms of 13.10.1.
Therefore, we as consumers should not be held liable for the cost charged when opting out of direct marketing, as some people claimed to have experienced. Insurance companies, for example, need to send SMS communication from a reverse billed number. This means that when consumers reply STOP or NO or GO AWAY to these pesky messages, the sender of the initial SMS, the insurance company, must be charged for the SMS, not the consumer. Most people, however, are unaware of their rights and unaware of these charges being made in the past. It helps to keep your eyes peeled from now on. We have the right to opt out, and should be afforded such. If these companies do not desist, well, you could always have a little fun with them.
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