The fine line between marketing and privacy
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) receives complaints from members of the public who have received marketing material from real estate agents, directly addressed to them by name even though they had no previous contact with the agency.
While the volume of these types of complaint is not large, the people who approach the OFT express that they feel their privacy has been violated by the agencies who have written to them.
Most recently, a complaint came to us from someone who had received this type of personally addressed marketing material, and she had taken her complaint to her local MP because she felt upset that her personal information had been used in this way.
As many real estate agents would know, licensed information brokers are allowed to sell the Government’s Queensland Valuation and Sales System information to members of the property industry. This information includes a property’s location, purchase price, date of sale, and the owner’s name and service address.
The brokers licensed to do this are CoreLogic RP Data, onthehouse.com.au, APM, PriceFinder, and Equifax. The Personal Identification Information in Property Data Code of Conduct prohibits the use of this data for direct marketing.
According to the most recent stats available from the committee that oversees this Code, there were 22 complaints made about alleged breaches of the Code, mostly involving property agents, in the 2016-17 financial year. Six of these complaints were substantiated and the agents involved given a warning and required to attend Code of Conduct training. Further sanctions are available to the committee for more serious breaches.
While the OFT does not regulate privacy matters, we strongly believe in the importance of protecting the personal information of individuals. Of course, marketing is an important part of the business of anyone operating in the property industry.
However, this needs to be balanced by the rules and legislation surrounding privacy. The result of stepping across this line can range from a member of the public viewing your agency in a negative light because they feel their privacy has been breached, to more significant official penalties, and I’m sure you would agree it would be best to avoid these outcomes.