Are you protecting your data right? This may sound like the sort of direct warning you get from cold callers or naff adverts which only ever appear on daytime TV, but for agents – and the property industry as a whole – it’s soon to be a hugely important consideration.
Why? Well, coming into effect from May 2018 is new data protection legislation, The General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR as it’s better known), which will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and have an impact on any organisation handling personal information.
This, of course, includes estate and letting agents, property management companies, trade bodies, conveyancing firms and those operating in the PropTech arena, too. Some agents we have spoken to have said: ‘this won’t affect me’. But trust me, it will.
The main purpose of GDPR is to protect organisations and individuals from data breaches, shoring up weak spots or vulnerabilities in data management which could be exploited by hackers or internal organisation abuse. The new law will apply to all EU countries and will be unaffected by Brexit as, come May 2018, Britain will still be part of the EU as it continues its withdrawal negotiations with Brussels.
Speed is of the essence, too, with those across the industry being urged to get their data house in order. Kristina Russell, UK sales manager at information management specialists Kefron, says agents need to pay particular attention to CRM: “Data is used in a number of ways which all need protecting - one example is CRM,” she advises. “As an industry that relies on CRM data for sales and marketing you need to be aware that GDPR means that you have to inform and seek permission from the ‘data subjects’”.
Put in simpler terms, current or prospective clients will need to be informed that their data is on file and will need to give full consent for their details to be held and used. Your staff will need to be trained up to be fully compliant with the new legislation, in particular those who process information in the CRM system. What’s more, if you outsource any work to a PR or marketing company, or any other kind of company, they will need to be fully GDPR-compliant as well.
Remember, once the new legislation has been enforced, the goalposts will also be moved on what exactly constitutes personal data/information. It won’t simply be telephone numbers and email addresses, but – in line with the modern, digital world we now live in – IP addresses, cookies and tags as well. As a result, you need to ensure data is being protected correctly across a number of different levels.
Failure to be GDPR-ready could prove costly to your business, with possible compensation claims made against you if it can be proven that you’ve processed data unlawfully. If you’re not fully compliant by May or you carry out a serious data protection violation, you could be hit with fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover or £18.2 million (whichever is greater). If a breach occurs and you fail to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within three days, you would face a maximum fine of around 2% of global annual turnover or £7.9 million (whichever is greater).
Fear not, though, at Angels we are developing a “safeguard you and your data from GDPR” strategy. Hopefully we’ll have some concrete information on this soon. We want to help our agents on this to ensure they are fully compliant and understand the dos and don’ts when it comes to protecting data. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this at a later date.
A moving acquisition
Reallymoving.com, the property comparison website, has further broadened its services with the acquisition of another comparison website – this time for legal services. Reallymoving, which has been going strong for nearly two decades, compares domestic removal services, surveys, conveyancing solicitors, EPCs and Scottish Home Reports. It’s a major player, generating some 834,000 quotes and receiving 225,000 registrations in 2016 alone.
Now it hopes to replicate that success in the legal services marketplace with its acquisition of TheLawSuperstore.co.uk. It’s venturing into a big (and potentially very lucrative) marketplace, with legal services worth approximately £26bn to the UK economy according to the Law Society. That said, price comparison sites have so far yet to take off in this particular arena. Reallymoving is seeking to change all that.
This is related, in a roundabout sort of way, to some work we are doing behind the scenes, where The ValPal Network is looking into ways of engaging the vendor further – in an automated way – on an agent’s behalf. Ultimately, this will help to make our agents more money on areas as wide-ranging as conveyancing, mortgages and utilities; a comparison website (of sorts) for the agency industry.
Out and about
Even though it’s August (somebody tell the weather!) and everything is supposed to slow down, that’s not been the case for me, with a number of interesting meetings with innovative clients in recent weeks. This has included KeyAGENT, which supplies various professional services to the UK property market – including professional photography, floor plans and EPCs – and photographs over 100,000 properties on a yearly basis, processing an astonishing 2.5m images annually.
I also met with Rent4Sure – a tenant referencing, credit checks and rent protection firm providing services for the UK lettings industry. Based in Kent, Rent4Sure was first founded in 2009 and has been growing steadily ever since, currently catering for more than 2,500 active agents.
“The demand for a quality referencing services is stronger than ever, and that's why we invest heavily in training our staff to support our customers in an ever-changing marketplace," said Sales Director Luke Burton.
“We’ll do the thinking so you don’t have to”
That’s what The ValPal Network is aiming to do – taking the hassle away from agents, allowing you to get on with doing what you do best. We have plenty of new stuff in the pipeline which, as ever, will help you to improve your business, speak to more vendors and landlords and win more instructions. We also have challenges – and challengers – in our way, but what’s life without a few obstacles? It’s our job to hurdle over them just as effortlessly as those elite athletes were at the London Stadium this time last week.
A new Head Shepherd
Interesting to note this week’s news that EweMove – the hybrid agency founded by David Laycock and Glenn Ackroyd, and acquired last year by The Property Franchise Group – has a new boss. Nick Neill is the new man in charge, having launched the York franchise version of EweMove only three years ago. Best of luck to Nick, hopefully he proves as innovative, enigmatic and daring as Glenn Ackroyd was in the past.
A party of Angels
Well, that might be debatable, but our growing Angels team will be able to let their hair down this Friday at the latest incarnation of our annual summer party. Food, booze, good weather (hopefully), a chocolate fountain and entertainment – what more could you ask for? It will be a great chance to celebrate the fine work of everyone at Angels Media, from the Valpalians and account managers to the content team, IT whizzes and social media gurus. The first drink – or two – is on me!
That’s that from me…Until next time.
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.