Elections scramble: Don’t call me, I’ll call you!
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Elections scramble: Don’t call me, I’ll call you!

Terence Pillay is fed up with the endless bombardment of his senses by political parties that are now using direct marketing to get people to vote for them. 

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There is nothing more infuriating than having my phone ping and find it’s an SMS from some or other direct marketer. The same with solicits on email. Both have an opt-out option, but you have to SMS the number at your cost to opt out or log on to a link at the bottom of the email that takes you through a series of steps that allow you to opt out of receiving these unwanted emails.

The problem is, in both instances, I have to waste my time and money opting out of a service that I never asked to be placed on to in the first place, and this brings me to my source of rage. The Democratic Alliance, or DA, has decided that they were going to spam my SMS inbox and endlessly bombard me with SMSes imploring me to register to vote.

Firstly, I am very politically aware. Not only do I know when to vote, but I also know my exact voting station and who I will be voting for. Secondly, I am very, very curious to know how my number, which, by the way, is on a Do Not Call list, has made its way on to the DA’s list. I asked a few people in the know about how this could have come about and they all said that the database was probably bought by the organisation. I can’t say if this is what happened, but I know for sure that I did not give permission for my inbox to suffer the endless bombardment of messages from this political party.

One friend suggested that they might have accessed the number from the voter’s roll. This incensed me even more. If this is the case, and I can’t say that it is, the question that needs to be asked is: Is the Independent Electoral Commission, who I imagine has access to the voters roll, POPI compliant? If this was the case, why was my personal information not protected?

But wait, that’s not all. I was happily sipping on a cocktail at my favourite beach restaurant on a Friday afternoon when my phone rings. I didn’t recognise the number but answered anyway to find none other than Mmusi Maimane on the other side. At first, I was a little intrigued. Why would the leader of the DA be calling me on a Friday afternoon? And just as I was about to respond, the voice recorded message carried on. I was so offended by this assault on my senses. 

Before I go on, I must point out that I also got an SMS from the ANC advising me to register to vote. But that appeared to be a once-off action. This is not the case with the DA’s messages. I maintain that I shouldn’t have to be put through this. And just to be clear, this irritating digital onslaught doesn’t inspire me to vote for the party. In fact, it elicits quite the opposite reaction.

I understand that sometimes when the stakes are high, people see rules and the law as a mere suggestion. And I’m not saying that’s entirely the case here, but they are using my personal information without my permission and that’s not right. Also, I’m not stupid; I shouldn’t have to be reminded every five minutes that I should register.

The fact is that I’m already a registered voter. So why can’t these political parties who are using the latest and greatest techniques to market themselves, be a little savvier about how they do it? For example, could they not segment their audience? Could they not identify who’s already done what they’re asking them to do so they’re not preaching to the converted? Could they not use some analytics so that they don’t target people who don’t want to be targeted? And at the very least, just use the Do Not Call list, to which I’ve subscribed so there should be absolutely no reason for these unsolicited calls.

Have you been receiving unsolicited calls and SMSes from political parties? I want to hear from you.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.   

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