PoPI Bodes Big Changes for Real Estate

The Protection of Personal Information Act stands to have far reaching consequences for the real estate industry when fully commenced. Think about it; real estate agents routinely handle personal information such as copies of buyer’s and seller’s identification documents, their tax numbers, bond account numbers etc and the Act will dramatically change how this information is managed and stored.
The Idea Behind PoPI
PoPi was enacted on the 26th of November 2013 and certain sections thereof came into effect in April 2014. Our Constitution makes specific reference to the right to privacy and includes everyone’s personal information within that right. Essentially PoPI is meant to promote transparency in terms of how personal
information (like your address, medical data, employment history and more) is collected, processed and archived.
Businesses will soon be tasked with not only responsibly collecting client’s personal data but also for how they communicate this information and store it. The idea is that this transparency will increase customer confidence, the reliability of databases and will reduce the risk of data breaches.  The Act also calls for a penalty or fine and /or imprisonment of up to 10 years in certain cases. 
What PoPI Means for Estate Agents and their Clients
“At Leapfrog we always make a point of staying abreast of any legal developments in order to ensure that our clients are given the best, legally compliant service”, says Bruce Swain, MD of Leapfrog Property Group, “As such we are abreast with the measures called for in the Act and are working our franchisees to ensure that the necessary protocols will be put in place once PoPI is fully enacted”.
In a nutshell PoPI places specific responsibilities on estate agents when:
·         Collecting information from prospective clients: once PoPI kicks in agents will need to obtain a potential client’s consent to send them any property listings or newsletters. “While we’re not there yet the advice we’ve obtained is that it will be wise for agents to obtain written consent from all potential clients before sending them any information”, Swain adds.

·         Client information will need to be stored in such a way that only individuals with the necessary authorisation will be able to obtain access. “As we understand it it’s likely that electronic record keeping and archiving will become compulsory”, explains Swain. 

·         Emails will be likely be strictly controlled and it may become necessary to encode emails containing information such as offers to purchase that have already been signed by one party.

·         It will no longer be permissible to use anyone’s personal information in order to send them direct marketing without their written permission.

“At Leapfrog we believe that the Act is necessary and will protect consumers in their dealings with service providers who require personal information”, believes Swain, “As agents we’ll have to be aware of these changes and significantly alter our approach to electronic marketing as well as the traditional mail drops, if we’re not to fall afoul of PoPI”.

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