The Running Commentary


Consumer Protection Act for us marketing types!

I have the very distinct privilege of working in the marketing field where each day brings with it new and awesome opportunities for great campaigns.

My world was almost shattered when I first heard about the Consumer Protect Act and the potential impact it was going to have on our ability to communicate with customers (both new and potential).

Recognising that knowledge is power, I dutifully went along to attend a number of workshops and courses on the pending threat.

So let me start at a place of common departure, the definition of direct marketing according to the Act. For the purposes of this Act, “Direct Marketing” is defined as:

  • “to approach a person – either in person, by mail or via electronic communication (for example, using telephone, fax, SMS or email) for the direct or indirect purpose of:
  • promoting or offering to supply, in the ordinary course of business, any goods or services to the person or
  • requesting the person to make a donation of any kind for any reason”.

In turn, “promote” is defined as:

  • “to:
  • advertise, display or offer to supply any goods or services in the ordinary course of business, to all or part of the public for consideration;
  • make any representation, in the ordinary course of business, that could reasonably be inferred as expressing a willingness to supply any goods or services for consideration;
  • engage in any other conduct, in the ordinary course of business that may reasonably be construed to be an inducement or attempted inducement to a person to engage in a transaction”.

In short, the Act requires a person who authorises, directs or conducts any direct marketing to implement appropriate procedures to facilitate the receipt of a demand to the effect that direct marketing to a consumer be discontinued.

So, whether you are in the advertising or marketing business it appears you have a problem. A strict interpretation of this implies that no advertisement offering anything is acceptable! Well, this hardly seems possible and, as a lawyer pointed out during one of the sessions I attended, this is going to be a very difficult Act to get to grips with. In his view, it is one that will require some cases to be tried in order to set some sort of precedent.

But, what does all of this ultimately mean to you, the marketer? It means putting on your thinking cap. It means getting creative (hooray!). As a starting point, ensure that your clients have approached their customers regarding the importance of maintaining open channels of communication.

Next, capture and clean your databases. Actively talk to your customers so that they see the benefit of your contact with them. Resist doing this through a plethora of new offers. Instead, follow a clear and defined process to convert your customer into a brand advocate.  Creatively speaking, you are going to need to develop a communication strategy that draws your client’s customers into your communication plan.

Dialogue is simply the only way that marketers are going to be able to sustain their client’s message in terms of the legislation. Once your client has opted into the communication, the Act in no way limits how you communicate with them. If they have elected to dialogue with you, you are free to communicate with as much creativity and flair as you can muster!

consumer protection actDirect MarketinglawMarketingMarketing Strategy

Mike • June 3, 2010

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