Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Spam calls driving you nuts? Here are your rights regarding direct marketing

We all know that feeling when your phone rings and indicates that it is a spam call. Here is how to deal with it.

It’s important to know your rights when your phone just won’t stop ringing and people on the other end keep trying to sell you anything from cell phones and insurance to services that you don’t need.

While you could possibly stumble across a real bargain when you answer one of these calls, the chances are much bigger that you could let yourself be talked into a transaction that you do not really need or want, and pay for it for years to come.

The good news is that you have specific rights as a consumer, according to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) that enables you to stop the calls and cancel any transaction that you might be talked into.

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What is direct marketing?

The CPA defines direct marketing as the process of approaching someone, in person, by mail, or through electronic communication, for the direct or indirect purpose of selling them, in the ordinary course of business, any goods or services.

When you phone someone to buy something and that person calls you back, that is not direct marketing, nor is it if you act on an advertisement and buy something at a shop.

The direct marketing must be initiated by a business, instead of yourself.

How does the CPA protect you?

The CPA protects your right to privacy and choice in sections 11 and 16, while regulations 4 and 12 make it clear when telesales people can contact you, what you can do to stop direct marketing targeting you, and how you can cancel the transaction if you give in and buy something offered by a direct marketer.

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Section 11

Section 11 gives you the right to limit direct marketing.

You can refuse to accept any direct marketing, require that the company stops contacting you and block the direct marketing. This means that you can request direct marketers to stop contacting you and remove your name from their calling lists.

This section also requires people in control of direct marketing to implement appropriate procedures to make it easier for you to ask them to stop contacting you, and that your name is removed from their call list. Companies are also not allowed to charge you to take your name off the list.

Consumers usually agree to receive direct marketing in writing, when they fill in a form to apply for credit, or when you check the box to agree to receive information about specials or new products.

If you check the box, the store is allowed to contact you, but this does not mean that they can share your information with other telemarketers.

Section 12

Section 12 and Notice 34180 that was published in the Government Gazette clearly states that telemarketers are not allowed to call you on Sundays and public holidays, and on weekdays only between 8:00 and 20:00 and between 9:00 and 13:00 on Saturdays, unless you agreed to other times.

This regulation also applies to all other kinds of electronic communication.

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Section 16

Section 16 contains a very important part of your protection against direct marketing by stating that you have a cooling off period after concluding a transaction that happened as a result of direct marketing.

You can cancel the transaction within five working days after the transaction or the product has been delivered, whichever happens first. You have to be able to prove that you cancelled within five days, but you do not have to give a reason for the cancellation or pay a fee to cancel.

The company must then refund any money you already paid within 15 work days if no products have been delivered, or if the product was delivered, within 15 days from receiving it back.

However, if you used some of the product, the company can require you to pay a fair fee for that.

When is section 16 not applicable?

Section 16 does not apply to a transaction if the transaction falls within the ambit of section 44 of the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act.