Less Than One Year Before Far-Reaching Rules Are Introduced
The majority of real estate firms are unaware of the new wide-ranging data protection rules which come into force in less than a year’s time - despite 20% admitting the maximum fine for non-compliance would force them out of business.
According to a YouGov survey of 83 firms in the real estate sector, which was commissioned by national law firm Irwin Mitchell, only 44% admit to being aware of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force on 25 May 2018.
GDPR represents the biggest change in 25 years to how businesses process personal information and it replaces existing data protection laws.
Under the new rules, the maximum fine for certain data breaches in the UK will rise from £500,000 to €20million or 4% of global turnover, whichever is larger.
Sixty four per cent of real estate companies are unaware of the new fines and 20% say they would go out of business if they received the maximum punishment. Eleven per cent think they would need to make significant job cuts with a further a 23% admitting that smaller scale headcount reductions will be necessary.
Joanne Bone, partner and data protection expert at Irwin Mitchell said:
Expert Opinion“These results are concerning because with next May’s deadline fast-approaching and with so much at stake, our study reveals there’s a very real possibility that a large number of real estate firms will not be compliant in time.” Joanne Bone - Partner
The notification of certain data breaches where there is an impact on privacy, such as a customer database being hacked or a letter being put in the wrong envelope, must be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours under the new regime.
However, Irwin Mitchell’s survey found that just 20% of property companies are certain that they would be able to detect a data breach within their organisation. The same proportion say they are confident they would notify the relevant stakeholders within the required timescale of three days.
Other changes under the GDPR include an obligation to be more transparent about how personal data is used. Businesses will also need to have processes in place in case an individual asks for all their personal data to be erased.
Irwin Mitchell believes the low level of awareness of GDPR is caused by a number of misconceptions that exist about the new rules and say this has led to a level of complacency.
This view is supported by 43% of respondents claiming that GDPR will have no impact and is not an issue for their sector. Thirty per cent claim GDPR isn’t relevant to their business as they are not a consumer business.
The reality is that the rules encompass a wide range of personal data including employee data, payroll and pension records. They also apply to data in a business context where individuals are concerned, such as sole traders and partnerships.
Expert Opinion“Contrary to popular belief personal data is not just consumer information. It is hard to think of a business today that does not use personal data. Whether you have employee data, customer data or supplier data – if the data relates to an individual you will be caught by the new data protection laws. There are certainly data protection issues that are relevant for the sector, including the use of CCTV in and around commercial property and the technology that is used to communicate and sell property services. This generates a significant amount of data and these new rules simply cannot be ignored.” Joanne Bone - Partner
The survey revealed that only 19% of real estate firms view the new data protection rules as an opportunity and 27% said the rules will have a negative impact on their organisation.
Commenting on this finding, Stuart Padgham, partner & National Head of Commercial at Irwin Mitchell, said:
Expert Opinion“It is important to recognise that taking a proactive approach towards GDPR compliance will potentially reap financial benefits. Good data governance can build customer trust and the right permissions can also help businesses take advantage of the Big Data Revolution and enable them to commercialise their data for competitive advantage.” Stuart Padgham - Partner
Irwin Mitchell’s latest GDPR report can be downloaded from here