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.


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.


  1. Dude, that sucks. Telemarketers are annoying, especially when you tell them that you are not interested and to kindly not call you again... Which some do. After telling that you told them you weren't interested the first time, the try make it seem as it is worth your time to listen or apply to what they are offering, whatever.

  2. This is horrendous. I had similar experiences with ABSA getting third party companies calling to offer insurance posing as ABSA.

    One would think companies operating in cellular already make enough money to build opt-in mechanisms that work across all digital channels.

    We have companies like accelleration and cerebra that help companies do this.

    This also calls for some type of summit of all players to facilitate discussion around the legalities pertaining to your mishap.

    Personally, I hope we can sue these critters and end up with a mansion and a yacht each.

  3. I have been getting the same response from Cell C tele-marketers (at least once per month) - except that they ask to speak to my wife. If it were really a random call, how would they know her name, and how have they linked her to my number. We are also very careful about leaving our numbers out there for this exact reason. The only place (that I'm aware of) that has my wifes name linked to my number is FNB.

    It really should be illegal, and it puts these companies in a bad light. I would never use Cell C, and it is a black mark next to FNB for me.

  4. Ross, without trying to defend Cell C too much without the facts, I have heard that their biggest bane is actually Cell C Connect (a third-party company, similar to Exact Mobile). The unfortunate slant is that they were granted rights to use the brand in their name and logo, so everyone assumes it's pure Cell C.
    Cell C Connect are notorious spammers and telemarketers.
    I wouldn't be surprised if it was Cell C Connect that contacted you.

    Andy, I couldn't agree with your point more. Even if you're on a Do-not-call list, if the law does not prohibit this kind of random cold calls who's to say that these guys have even deduped your number from whatever metaphysical list they're using.
    Sounds like they just roll their fingers over the keypad and hope for the best.

  5. Telemarketers are a pain – no wonder so many South Africans turn to online sites in order to submit their complaints. Complaining for the sake of venting your anger is one thing, but surely it’s better to use that energy constructively and lodge your complaint with someone that can really make a difference, such as www.getclosure.co.za. This could go a long way to making a positive impact on customer service in South Africa. And remember that it’s also important to spread the word about the good service you receive.

  6. @aileen I seriously hope you don't, considering you're a spam bot.


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