Personal data abuse proved to be bad call

2014-12

Estate agencies and practitioners should always seek clients’ consent before using their personal data for direct marketing purposes.

Mishandling a client’s personal data during estate agency work may be subject to disciplinary action by the Estate Agents Authority.

In one case, a homebuyer instructed an agency not to use her personal data for direct marketing upon completion of a property purchase. But the company’s employee still made calls to her. The client then lodged complaints with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, and with a director of the estate agency. The director assured that her personal data had been added to the opt-out list and that his staff would not call her again.

However, the client continued to receive direct marketing calls from that company. Angry and annoyed, she made a report to the Police.

The estate agency and practitioner who made the calls were subsequently convicted in court of contravening the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

The EAA also instigated an investigation. Both the agency and practitioner had failed to comply with paragraph 3.1.1 of the Code of Ethics issued by the authority, which states that the estate agents and salespersons shall refrain from activities during their practice that may infringe on the law.

The company was censured and fined HK$30,000, while the practitioner was reprimanded and had her license suspended for seven days by the EAA disciplinary committee.