Over the past few years, companies have been mining customers’ personal information freely in order to optimise their marketing efforts. Question is, can you trust your real estate agent to keep your personal information safe, or are they in some way breaking the POPI Act?

Why Do Real Estate Agents Need My Personal Information?
Personal information is an integral part of the real estate business. The more an agent knows about a client, the better equipped they are in finding the ideal home that meets the individual needs of that client. Although the Protection of Personal Information Act has yet to be wholly implemented, our agents are required to respect the information that is shared with them and only use it in a way that benefits a client.

What is POPI & What Are My Rights?
Though signed into law, the POPI Act is not fully enforceable just yet. The Act was initially signed into South African law in November 2013, but the Information Regulator that is set to monitor and enforce compliance with the Act was only established in December 2016. Since the passing of the Act, only a few of the points have been implemented, namely:

  1. The definitions outlined in the Act.
  2. Part A of Chapter 5 that deals with the establishment and roles of an Information Regulator.
  3. Section 112 of the Act that allows the Minister of the Information Regulator to implement regulations.
  4. Section 113 of the Act that deals with the procedure of making and enforcing regulations by the Information Regulator.

While we still await the day that the Act in its entirety will be implemented, you still have the right to expect that your agent will keep your personal information safe.

How POPI Relates to Real Estate Transactions
To start, the act basically prohibits companies from sharing your personal information without first acquiring your approval. In real estate, this means that an agent should never give out the personal information of their clients without first acquiring the client’s permission. For example, if buyers are calling you directly, and you have not given your agent permission to give out your number, then your agent is violating the POPI Act.

Companies are also no longer be allowed to send you any direct marketing material unless you are an existing client of theirs or have consented to receive the material. And, even if you are an existing client, companies must still allow you the option to opt-out of their communications. This means that if you’re receiving marketing emails and you have no way to unsubscribe, then the company is violating the Act and you will have the right to report them to the Information Regulator who can issue them with a fine of up to a maximum of R10 million or imprisonment of up to 10 years (depending on the severity of the offence, of course).    

In short, the POPI Act restores the autonomy of the individual to decide whether they want to give, share or receive information. If your estate agent isn’t allowing you this same autonomy, then you should consider switching to an agent who will respect your right to choose how your personal information will be used.

For a full copy of the POPI Act, CLICK HERE.

To get in touch with a real estate agent, CLICK HERE.