Protecting Your Personal Information

By: Mieke le Roux – Brits Law Inc.

Published Wednesday, 18 October 2023.


In today’s digital age our personal information is constantly in danger of being collected, shared, and spread without our knowledge or consent. The problem is that we unwittingly grant companies/businesses permission to do so, by signing contracts, agreements and forms containing clauses permitting businesses to contact you for marketing purposes. The risk of your data being captured, and spread is all around you, and can happen by joining a competition on social media or even connecting to free WIFI at a public space, if you miss these “opt-in” sections, you run the risk of receiving unsolicited marketing messages.

The Power of the fine print 

To safeguard your personal information, it is important to know that the devil is in the details. Many agreements, contracts or forms contain a clause in which after you sign this agreement, you give these companies/businesses consent to contact you for marketing related purposes. 

Because of this, it’s imperative that you thoroughly read the fine print and use caution when giving out your contact details. You have the power to decide how your data is used and shared by being informed. Let’s examine your rights and safeguards in more detail:

One of the most important tools for shielding customers from unsolicited marketing messages is the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Every person has the right, under Section 11 of the CPA, to reject, end, or prevent any contact that is primarily intended for direct marketing. As per the CPA, businesses are not allowed to send unsolicited marketing messages to people who have “opted out.” The CPA defines direct marketing as any type of electronic or personal communication intended to raise money or promote products or services. 

The timing of direct marketing communications is subject to stringent limitations enforced by Section 12 of The CPA. Businesses are not permitted to call customers at home on Sundays or public holidays. They are also prohibited from contacting you on Saturdays before 9 a.m. and after 1 p.m., and on weekdays between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

There is also the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) to consider. Section 69 of the POPI Act forbids unsolicited direct marketing, stating that processing personal data for direct marketing purposes by email or SMS is forbidden if no expressed consent is given. In terms of Section 11(4) of the POPI Act if you object to the processing of personal information the responsible party may no longer process your personal information.

How to OPT out from direct marketing and reporting breaches 

Rest assured, there is still a way to restore your peace of mind and privacy if telemarketing businesses are inundating you with unsolicited marketing messages: the National Opt-Out Register. You can choose not to receive any direct marketing communications by using this register, which is run by the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA).

This is how it works: You give the National Opt-Out Register your contact details, including your ID number, and they will make sure that marketing-related businesses cannot access it. But take note that this service is only going to work if the businesses contacting you are registered with DMASA. If you continue to receive marketing related messages after registering, you can file an anonymous complaint with the National Consumer Commission at the DMSA website or send an email to [email protected].

In an era where private data is highly valued, it’s critical to be aware of your rights and exert control over the use of your information. You can safeguard your private information and have a more tranquil and private online experience by carefully reading the fine print and making use of resources like the National Opt-Out Register. Recall your right to protect your information, and don’t be afraid to use it by choosing to stop receiving unsolicited marketing messages.