A quick summary for those who don’t like to read:

The 6 Things You Need To Know & Do About POPI:

  1. POPI will probably come into full effect on 1st April 2020 (no April Fool’s joke) and you will have a year to comply before they start enforcing – and fining.
  2. You can send direct marketing (emails, SMS, direct calls) to your existing customers (people who have previously paid you money for products and services) as long as its about similar products and services and as long as they can opt out on each communication you send them.
  3. You need to have a record of how and when the people on your database opted in  – so send out an email/sms asking them to explicitly opt-in or opt-out before the 1st April!
  4. You may only ask a person to opt in once – no spamming multiple times to try and get a different reaction
  5. If you are sending out bulk communications to your email or sms database without using a third-party product to manage automatic unsubscribes, not is the time to take action and invest in a solution.
  6. If someone’s email adress/phone number appears on a public website, you cannot assume they consent to being added to a database – you will need to contact them and get their consent to add them to a database.

With the stroke of a presidential pen, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) was signed into law on 19 November 2013.

This action set wheels in motion that have prompted advertisers and marketing professionals across South Africa to completely reassess the way they execute direct marketing activities.

Experts predict that the POPI Act will most likely come into full effect from 01 April 2020, after which we will have a year to comply before the Information Regulator commences full enforcement.

In this article we hope to shed light on what direct marketing is, discuss the differences between the new POPI Act and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), and share tips on how to POPI-proof your marketing.

What exactly is direct marketing?

Regardless of whether a client is B2B or B2C, there are two core approaches that marketing teams can take, namely indirect and direct marketing

Indirect marketing is a passive promotional mix, where brands connect with their audiences and make information available. The main goal is to facilitate client-brand communication. Indirect marketing doesn’t require the capturing of personal details.

Direct marketing is more aggressive, and involves persuasive sales pitches that might or might not end up in a deal. The main goal is to push brand-client communication, where the brand approaches customers directly. Capturing of audience information is, understandably, fundamentally necessary.


Differences between POPI and the CPA

Both of these pieces of legislation are primarily applicable to certain direct marketing practices, but can apply to indirect marketing activities should any information be gathered from the target audience (like saving email addresses or telephone numbers of people who contact you via social media).

Protection of Personal Information Act

This Act will regulate the collection, storage, and dissemination of personal information – including for direct marketing purposes. Under POPI regulation, customers enjoy a state of ‘opted out’ unless expressly opting in to receive communications from a company.

Consumer Protection Act

The CPA is more concerned with protecting customers from unsolicited, invasive direct marketing messages from companies. Under this regulation, customers being sent messages are seen as having opted in until such time that they formally opt out.


How to POPI-proof your future marketing

Justine Krige, director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr law firm, shares that there’s much confusion regarding the new direct marketing rules in South Africa. POPI regulates electronic communication that includes automated calling machines, SMSes, emails, and faxes.

“Direct marketing via any form of electronic communication including automated calling machines, faxes, SMSes and email will no longer be permitted, unless the person has either given his/her consent to receive such electronic communication, or is an existing customer. Otherwise, the person’s consent will be required.” Says Krige.

She reveals that a marketer may approach someone for direct marketing consent only once, provided that they have not withheld consent previously.

When it comes to contacting your existing customers, there are three criteria that need to be met before you can start marketing to them directly:

  1. If the customer’s contact information was obtained in the context of a product or service sale;
  2. If the company wants to inform customers of similar products or services;
  3. If the customer is given opportunities to refuse the direct marketing, both at the time the information is collected and on every piece of marketing communication.

Krige is of the opinion that the POPI Act is going to make using contact information gleaned from lead generation campaigns much trickier.

“Companies are also going to need to manage their customer databases a lot more effectively, and keep records of where, how and when was the personal information initially obtained; whether the person is an existing customer and, if so, in respect of what products or services; whether the person has consented to receiving direct marketing; and whether the person has unsubscribed from receiving direct marketing.”

POPI Do’s & Don’ts:


  • Scrape websites for contact details to add to your database
  • Buy databases from third parties
  • Send out messages to your database for products and services not directly related to yours
  • Continue to communicate with anyone who has unsubscribed


  • Use bulk email and SMS software that keeps track of opt-in and opt out information and automatically includes an automatic opt out on each message
  • Ask people directly if you can add them to your database

We can help you with your POPI compliance

Don’t flounder in the sea of misunderstanding around POPI and what it means for your business’s future marketing efforts. Contact us today and we’ll demystify the murky waters of direct marketing, and help you ensure your brand is POPI and CPA compliant!