Thursday, August 09, 2012

DirectAxis ignores customer privacy laws to send spam

DirectAxis is a division of business partner with Sanlam*. I am a Sanlam customer. DirectAxis sent me a marketing SMS (i.e. spam) on Wednesday at 9.15am. It read:
As a homeowner 1HOME by DirectAxis offers you SA's premium personal loan of up to R100,000 for any household or personal costs. Reply YES. Stop to opt out
Naturally, I was annoyed because they "know" I'm a homeowner, which is none of their business, and they found out my cell phone number by some devious, unethical or illegal means. So I replied "YES" to get them to call me and explain where they got my details from.
The lady from the call centre called me and asked for my wife. I asked what it was in connection with, and she referred to the SMS. I told her it was my phone she had called, and she said they knew my number because I own property. I asked if they were members of the Direct Marketing Association. She said no; she either lied or didn't know. Direct Axis Sa (Pty) Ltd is a member of the DMA. So told her to put my number on their Do Not Contact database, and told her I don't trust and won't do business with companies who go scurrying around trying to find my details without my permission.
Later, I Googled their name and found their web site, which states: "Direct Axis (SA) (Pty) Ltd is an authorised Financial Services Provider"*. It says nothing about their connection with
Sanlam, or that they are part-owned by FirstRand. However, when I looked for a photo of the MD of DirectAxis, I found it on the Sanlam web site, in the "Directors" section:
Mark Finlayson
So I wrote the following to Mark Finlayson, the MD:
Dear Mark
I received an unsolicited SMS message from your company today, touting your 1HOME product, whatever that is. Are you not aware that my name and number is on the DMA’s Do Not Contact list?
Please explain
Donn Edwards
His reply was not unexpected:
Hi Donn
I will check on why you received the promotion and revert[sic]** to you.
Mark Finlayson
Tel: +27 21 764 3058 | Cell: +27 82 460 1657 | Switchboard: +27 21 764 3000 | Email:
Today I got an email from another member of the company, in reply to my question about where they got my number. He wrote:
Hi Donn,
I can confirm that we are in fact a member of the DMA and that we definitely would not have got your details from your blog. The guy looking after the 1Home marketing is currently looking into the detail of exactly where your details where obtained and why you received a promotion. I will have this feedback for you by the close of business tomorrow as today is a public holiday.
Robert Gwerengwe
So now we have a registered Financial Services Provider ignoring the Do Not Contact list of the DMA to send me spam. That's already a violation of the ECT Act, and probably the Consumer Protection Act as well.
How trustworthy are these people? To find out, I consulted the
HelloPeter web site, and found the following graph:
DirectAxis SPAM
Note how the industry average for spam complaints is around 2%, yet
DirectAxis is 16% (8 times greater). A browse through their list of complaints found several recent spam complaints among dozens of complaints about bad Billing/Accounts. Just as I suspected: not particularly trustworthy, especially with my data.

Update: *Loans from Sanlam Personal Loans are administered and managed by
DirectAxis, an authorised Financial Services Provider. Sanlam Personal Loans (Pty) Ltd Reg. No. 2001/016316/07, Registered Credit Provider (NCRCP272), is a joint venture between Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd and Direct Axis (SA) (Pty) Ltd. Reg. No. 1995/06077/07.

**On the subject of the usage of the word "revert": look it up, and you will find it means "to come or go back (as to a former condition, period, or subject)". So to say you will "revert to me" means that you will go back (regress?) to being me, which is insulting. It's almost as meaningless as "get back to me" when what you mean to say is "reply" or "respond" or "answer".

Update: Saturday 11th August: I finally received a reply from DirectAxis:
Dear Mr Edwards
Our 1Home offering is focussed on providing home owners with value by offering personal loans for home improvements.
Your details were included on the database of a company called Journey (they have associations with companies which have assisted people obtain home loans or enquire about home loan finance), who provide us with services for our 1Home offering.
As a result of a technical issue our routine daily check against the DMA opt-out records did not run on Wednesday. This is the reason that you were contacted despite being on the DMA's list. This technical issue has been resolved and you will no longer receive messages from us. Your records have been removed from the Journey database.
We have identified the call center agent who incorrectly informed you that we are not members of the DMA and we have ensured that this will not occur again in the future.
I trust the above gives you the clarity you require and apologise sincerely for any inconvenience. I would be very happy to discuss this matter further with you should you require further information.
How convenient to be able to blame it on a technical issue. I believe that as much as I believe the sincerity of the apology, given their track record on HelloPeter. It would appear that the "Journey" company mentioned in the reply is also a member of the DMA: Journey Customer Innovation Pty Ltd. So now we have two companies, both members of the DMA, ignoring the Do Not Contact database and spamming potential customers. How dumb is that?Also, none of this claptrap about "associations with companies which have assisted people obtain home loans or enquire about home loan finance" explains how they as a Financial Services Provider could abuse this information in such a way. It just doesn't sound ethical to me. But then I've yet to meet an ethical spammer.


Tricky said...

Personally I believe a "do not spam me" list is stupid.

The way I see it, any company with access to the list automatically has a verified list of recipients that they can "sell on" to someone else who doesn't care about the law.

The other viewpoint, on an ethical point, is that I shouldn't have to take pro-active action to not be spammed. I should have to take pro-active action to *receive* these messages. The "do not spam" list is "buy-in" that we accept that spammers have a place in society.

Donn Edwards said...

In an ideal world, we wouldn't need a "no not spam" list, but unfortunately the Marketing departments of most corporates are populated with idiots. They assume we are all dying to hear their marketing drivel, which we are not.

Whether we like it or not, spammers have a place in society: they belong in jail. Unfortunately they are able to bribe politicians to make the laws against spamming so toothless that they'll never end up there.

The existence of a "do not spam" list is a great lever against spamming companies in the court of public opinion, as my many articles prove.

Briface said...

Well well well. her we are two years later and Direct Axis is still spamming us! thanks for your artical, nice to know im not alone

Mielie69 said...

July 2015 - Still sending spam letters - Seems 021 764 3058 is still the direct number for Mark Finlayson....
I was told by their call centre staff that they received the database from "the credit bureau" - They insult me by thinking I believe such drivel.
Last time I checked a credit bureau will not divulge their customers' confidential information - they will go out of business very fast if they dare to do that...

Donn Edwards said...

Sadly, the credit bureaus are complicit. They allow companies to "pre-approve" huge lists of names before sending out the spam.

Perry said...

As far as I can tell, Journey is in the same building as Direct Axis, so something tells me the relationship is closer than they're claiming.