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Is spam ever a necessity?

Standard Bank's recent communication may have put it between the proverbial rock and a hard place: the FICA act and South Africa's data privacy laws. In a recent email sent to customers on the Internet Banking database, Louis Blom, head of online banking at Standard Bank says, "We are obliged to send this email to you as an Internet banking user, even if you have unsubscribed to our emails..."
Is spam ever a necessity?

At first glance, this would appear to be a direct contravention of data privacy and the whole opt-in/opt-out saga that is slowly being enforced on SA's digital marketplace. If so, it's going to be very interesting to monitor how the market reacts. Will this be another instance of "big bank" can do whatever they please - or will the increasingly active online community take offence?

In Standard Bank's defence - it could also point to an interesting conflict of laws. Does the FICA act and other banking security laws provide a loophole for spam? Under the blanket of protecting consumer security?

From a marketing perspective though, this email raises other, more important questions. Whoever advised Standard Bank to send this email, I presume, had to have taken into account the potential brand damage that could occur. In case you haven't tried, it's not that easy to opt-out. Having gone to the trouble, the poor customer is greeted with yet another email.

In order to get Standard Bank's side of the story, I have tried absolutely all avenues in order to track it down - including two calls to the marketing department, a call to the call centre, two emails to Louis Blom, two voicemails to media relations man Ross Lindstrom and finally, an attempt to get hold of Magna Carta - its publicity agency. Unfortunately, there has been no reply.

  • Original post by Brett Scott and resulting discussion at Cowboys & Engines is a product of The Virtual Works.
  • About Andy Hadfield

    Andy Hadfield is a marketing man, with a digital slant. He is currently COO of The Virtual Works (, responsible for some brave and pioneering blue chip brands as they foray into the world of Web and hosted applications. In his spare time, he attempts to promote African Web Talent on Africa 2.0 (

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