Shame on those insurers targeting the consumer with spam text messages!

Do you also get excited when receiving a text message/ sms only to see that it is a spam sms from an insurance company? The worst industry in sending spam to consumers is the insurance industry and consumers should take measures to limit their exposure to unsolicited mail, an industry insider has said.

Managing director of BulkSMS.com Dr Pieter Streicher recently told News24 that the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was not very effective in protecting consumers from spam. Consumers have been invited to express their anger and frustration on social media networks such as Twitter and to shame those insurers.

“The Consumer Protection Act came into effect in 2011 and it makes provision for people who receive unsolicited messages to opt out, but does not impose any liability on the sender of the marketing material.”

The CPA was intended to provide for a mechanism to prevent companies from sending spam or unsolicited messages to consumers and protect identities, but the national consumer commission (NCC) has been dogged by problems.

The National Consumer Commission is tasked with carrying out legal action on behalf of companies, but Streicher was sceptical about its ability to fulfil this mandate.

“The legislation is reasonably good, but when it comes to enforcement, there are many problems.”

“My advice to consumers is that if brands behave in a way that they regard as unacceptable, to simply tweet about that. Consumers have a lot of power today because new communication tools allow them to tell everyone what is happening.”

Can you unsubscribe from a list and does it work?

The text messages often informs the consumer that he can “opt out”or unsubscribe – but does this work?

Spam sent to cellphones has become a big problem in South Africa, particularly as users have to unsubscribe from the list to limit the number of messages. Consumers find themselves pulled into the market of trading in personal information.

Streicher says that this method is not good enough to protect consumers.

“Opt out does not work: To give you an example – you have businesses that buy and sell personal information. They create these lists which they then sell on to a company which then uses that list to send marketing information.

“Now let’s say you opt out – you are opting out of that specific company sending you marketing information, but you’re name is still on the list, and your details on that list are being sold to thousands of other companies. It’s impossible to get off the list,” he said.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was meant to provide consumers with some degree of defence against a growing mountain of spam via SMS, but its opt out clause means that the onus falls on consumers to try and get themselves off lists.

Consumer Activism

Consumers are advised to not only unsubscribe and “Opt Out” but also to be more active in shaming those spamming them with these messages! There are many online portals allowing consumers to express their frustrations  – the most well-known is that of Hellopeter.

There are also many discussion forums available to the online consumers and the bigger corporates are increasingly more aware of the importance of managing their reputation online.

By venting frustration towards these companies spamming our cellular phones we might be able to create enough reputational damage to those providers to have a re-think of the marketing strategy they are forcing on the consumer!

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