How to protect yourself from cold calls and texts

Receiving cold calls (more formally known as direct marketing) is a pet peeve for many people. There are also some pushy and rude call centre staff who just won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood finds out how you can protect yourself from those pesky cold calls and texts.

LegalWise explains: “Direct marketing is where a person is approached by a supplier for the purpose of advertising his/her goods for sale, services available, or to request a donation. The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) gives every person a right to restrict or block any communication from suppliers of this nature.

Advocate Neville Melville, the consumer goods and services ombudsman, adds that the CPA permits for opting out and an ‘opt out’ register (not yet implemented by the National Consumer Commission (NCC)) but the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) section 66: businesses may not send any form of electronic marketing messages without the prior permission of the recipients being granted.

The Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA), elaborates: “[POPI] prescribes that calling a customer is allowed, provided a person is calling (Human to Human), it prohibits automatic voice machines. Current POPI legislation also prohibits unsanctioned digital advertising (SMS, Email and MMS). This legislation is technically on hold until the POPI regulator takes office, projected to be within next 24 months.”

The sale of your information

The DMASA states: “The peddling of consumer’s personal information is protected by the CPA, POPI and PAIA. POPI has been specifically enacted for this purpose by regrettably, the Regulator’s office was only established in December 2016, after Adv. Pansy Tlakula was appointed by Parliament as the Information Regulator.

“Furthermore, although the Act itself has been signed into law, only certain sections, namely 39-54, 112 and 113 of the Act, which deal with the establishment of the Regulator’s office are in operation. The rest of the Act will only become operational once the Regulator’s office is fully operational, which might be in about 19 months’ time, according to Adv. Tlakula.”

When can you be contacted?

According to LegalWise, you are allowed to be contacted via direct marketing at the following times:

  • Saturdays between 9am and 1pm.
  • Mondays to Fridays between 8am and 8pm.
  • When you requested or agreed to another time.

The CPA does not permit duress. If you have an encounter with a call centre agent that won’t take no for an answer and keeps pushing you to buy the service or product they are selling, you can lodge a complaint with the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud.

The DMASA notes that with each right, a consumer must also practice responsible action. As such, if you receive a call and you are not interested in the product or service being sold, simply say no and end the call. However, Makhafola adds that call centre agents have scripts that instruct them to acknowledge three ‘No’s’ before ending a call at all times.

“DMASA registered companies use our DNC (Do Not Call) Database – this allows marketers to clean a list before dialling. Consumers should place their names on this list to minimise digital adverts,” says the DMASA.

To sign up to the DMA National OPT OUT Database, click here. However, this will only exclude you from being contacted by companies which are members of the DMA, a list of DMA members can be found here. Companies which do not prescribe to the DMA could still contact you for direct marketing purposes.

They keep calling even after asking them to stop

You can ask to be removed from a contact list when contacted by companies for direct marketing purposes. If they continue to contact you, this is also a contravention of the CPA and can be reported to the NCC.

The DMASA stresses that PAIA entrenches your right to be given the details that a company has about you, as well as protects your right to be removed from the list. Furthermore, POPI prescribes that companies should use an internal Opt-Out list. Each company should maintain their own list. “If you have OPTED-OUT and still receive calls, you need to get the callers info and contact the DMASA,” says the DMASA.

The DMASA complaints department can be contacted at They will investigate any issues reported to them.

Protecting yourself from cold calls

“As consumers and South Africans in general, we need to understand that, business and consumers have to co-exist. Without customers, production and sales will stop; this will spell an end for jobs. Calls are allowed as the power rests in the hands of the customer to end the call,” emphasises the DMASA.

However, the DMASA adds that consumers and business must be mindful of the rights and responsibilities that they each possess.