Playing by the rules of the Consumer Protection Act

In a recent Memeburn article, Candice De Carvalho discusses how the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) will affect marketing across social networks, as well as online advertising and retailing in South Africa:

This marks an interesting turn around for online marketing agencies, companies and even individuals marketing products and services. Online marketers have often thought of social media marketing as ‘permission-based’ marketing. According to the Act, nothing is permission-based unless explicitly gotten in writing.”

Drawing on a report compiled by Phatic Communications, De Carvalho summarised the key elements of the CPA that relate to online marketing and provided tips for complying with the Act.

How to play by the rules

Defining direct marketing as approaching someone online “for the direct or indirect purpose of promoting, selling or requesting a donation”, De Carvalho explains that the new restrictions give every person the right to refuse, pre-emptively block, or request the discontinuation of “any approach or communication from those who are engaging in marketing”.

And whether you’re selling goods or services, or giving free ‘advice’ or information online, the CPA applies.

Make sure that your online marketing plays by the CPA’s rules to protect your business and your customers. Get a copy of the Act and find out what parts are relevant to your online efforts.

These are De Carvalho’s 6 steps for marketers with a Facebook page:

  1. State clearly who is speaking
  2. Specify the authority or qualifications of the page administrators
  3. Don’t send private messages – these can be misconstrued as direct marketing.
  4. Set up a Terms & Conditions page, in clear and simple language, to  explain that liking the page gives permission for the page to make contact via wall posts and event invitations.
  5. Make sure people know how to ‘opt out’ from the page and any communication
  6. The page should follow the code of the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Advertising Practice, the CPA, and the ECTA.

The risks of not playing by the rules

Giving away confidential information about your communities or any other contravention of the Act could land you in jail, or with a hefty fine.

And even international companies take that risk if they’re doing business in South Africa. According to De Carvalho, “consumers locally can sue international companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, if they do not comply with the Act.”

Read the full article, Social Media Marketing and the Consumer Protection Act, here.

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