The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (WASPA) has launched an online platform that lets you type in the number an automated SMS message originated from and find out who sent it.
Called the Codes Project, the platform is intended to help consumers identify the sender of unwanted SMS messages.
WASPA managing executive Ilonka Badenhorst said that unsolicited direct marketing messages may create frustration for the recipient, especially if they are unable to identify the originator of the message.
“Everyone who owns a cell phone has likely received unwanted messages advertising products that they do not want or need,” Badenhorst said.
You may even receive an advertisement you do need, but have no way of finding out whether the sender is reputable or not.
With the Codes Project, consumers can identify the owner of a long code or short code number, as well as the owners of USSD codes.
“This will make it easy to identify where the SMS came from, although of course, the platform will only contain information about service providers that are registered with WASPA,” explained Badenhorst.
“If the sender is identified, consumers will have the additional peace of mind knowing that they are communicating with a reputable player that is bound by the WASPA Code of Conduct.”
Badenhorst said that if the company that sent the SMS is registered with WASPA, their contact details will be provided.
This will allow you to contact the company directly and obtain more information on the originator of the message, request to be removed from the database, or lodge a complaint.
The Codes Project is an extension of WASPA’s Do Not Contact (DNC) initiative, which is a list that consumers can add their number to and opt out of unsolicited SMS advertising, stated Badenhorst.
WASPA members engaged in direct SMS marketing campaigns are required to check the DNC list on a weekly basis.
Badenhorst said that in a situation where the organisation sending direct marketing messages fails to comply with the DNC list, consumers can then contact WASPA directly as the organisation has a well-established complaints process.
“It is worth noting that the Consumer Protection Act and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) contain specific provisions regulating direct marketing,” said Badenhorst.
“WASPA’s Code incorporates all of the requirements of these laws. Moreover, this Code is binding on members of WASPA and any companies sending messages via a WASPA member.”
What POPIA means for SMS marketing
While POPIA came into effect on 1 July 2020, companies have been given at least a year’s grace within which to comply with the promulgated law.
While companies are currently able to send direct marketing messages to any e-mail address or cellphone number they can lay their hands on in South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) aims to crack down on this practice.
With POPIA the restrictions on direct marketing will shift from being opt-out by default, to opt-in by default.
Companies will have to get consent from consumers before they are allowed to send marketing messages to them.
One exception is that companies will be allowed to send direct marketing messages if the customer was given a chance to opt-out when they opened their account. These messages can only promote similar products or services to what you bought from them initially.