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What's happening with digital privacy in South Africa?

I had a horrible telemarketing experience the other day. I didn't blog it - because there's not much point in using this platform to just bitch. Saffers have got Hello Peter for that.

But I got a really interesting customer feedback response from one of the parties involved - and now I have to ask the question. What is going on with digital privacy in this country? Cellphones and emails stream almost instantaneously into our lives these days, and they're getting a little intrusive.

Allow me to explain.

1. Received a call from Elite Mobile at 6pm. It was a telemarketer. 6pm is too late in my opinion.

2. This was the second call in a couple of months. I had asked to be unsubscribed.

3. They introduced themselves in that telemarketer speak as "Vodacom's biggest dealer" or "direct dealer". I forget.

4. I asked how they came by my details and was shocked to hear the response - a random dialer.

5. I immediately confirmed who I was speaking to and asked again not to be called back.

6. I reported this to the Direct Marketing Association, Vodacom and Elite Mobile themselves.

Now, here's some positive spin on the story. The DMA got back to me the very next day and speedily unsubscribed me (put me on a do-not-call list?) from Elite Mobile. Vodacom got back to me after 2 days with an apology. In SA, corporates are notorious for slow response rates to online enquiries. This was pleasing.

But Vodacom's reply really blew my hair back. Here it is:

Dear Customer

Thank you for your e-mail communication to Vodacom.

Please accept our sincere apology for not responding within 12 hours. We are currently experiencing extremely high volumes of e-mails hence us not being able to honour our service level agreement.

Please bear in mind that some outlets are franchise-owned and while Vodacom may publish the recommended retail tariffs/contracts, the various outlets often run different specials promoting their products.

Kindly be advised that Elite Mobile calls random selected numbers with regards to application promotions and services that they offer. You are more than welcome to let us know, whether we need to contact them so that they can remove your number from their Data base.

Once again we do apologise for the inconvenience caused.

Should you have any further queries, please contact us via e-mail at customercare@vodacom.co.za

Warm Regards

xxxx xxxxxxx

Let me repeat that: Kindly be advised that Elite Mobile calls random selected numbers with regards to application promotions and services that they offer.

WHAT?!

Is this legal? If so, it is a frightening way around the opt-in opt-out provisions of digital privacy. In South Africa, we have used up all 082 and 083 numbers I believe. My maths is pretty pokey - but isn't that 15 to 20 million numbers that can now be randomly called with unsolicited promotions?

I'd really like some official response here.

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