As a perceived expert and authority in the Property Industry, Estate Agents owe a heightened duty of care to their clients.
In addition to professional expectations, complex financial transactions, such as a house purchase or letting, also involve the handling of personal data, and agents must have robust processes in place to ensure such data is secure.
Failure to protect data can lead to significant reputational damage, regulatory action as well as Professional Indemnity Insurance claims.
London Estate Agent Data Breach Exposes Customer to ID Theft
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken action against London Estate Agent, Thamesview Estate Agents after the firm failed to dispose of paperwork containing personal information securely despite a previous warning.
Client Passport Copies Left in Transparent Bags
On the 11th December 2013, the ICO received a report that transparent bags containing personal information such as copies of passports and tax information had been left on the street.
The ICO duly warned the firm that it must improve it’s Data Protection Act compliance and dispose of personal information securely.
The second Report Led to Action
On 13th March 2014, a further report was received that the company was still leaving personal information in the street.
The ICO investigation found that Thamesview staff were not aware that they were acting in breach of the company’s own guidance on the secure disposal of confidential waste.
ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said:
“Customers of Thamesview Estate Agents will be rightly concerned that their information was left on a street for all to see.
The papers visible to the public included copies of customer’s passports and details of previous tax payments. This could be all a fraudster would need to steal someone’s identity.
“Despite a previous warning from our office, the company failed to address this issue. This is why we’ve served the business with an undertaking committing them to improving the way they handle their customers’ information.”
Commitment to Secure Data
Thamesview has signed an official undertaking that has committed the firm to ensure that all of its branches keep personal customer data secure.
Refresher training for all staff is also being implemented along with a formal contractual agreement with the companies responsible for destroying their customer information.
A Reminder: The Eight Principles of the Data Protection Act
Any company which handles or processes Personal Data must comply with the eight principles of the Data Protection Act:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
- Processed for limited purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Accurate and up to date
- Not kept for longer than is necessary
- Processed in line with your rights
- Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
Professional Indemnity Protection
Not only is losing customer data in breach of the Data Protection Act, but it could also lead to a financial loss for those clients involved.
In addition to the apparent reputational damage, instances such as ID theft can lead to claims for misuse of information, in the form of both direct losses and any associated physical or emotional damages.
If claims are received from multiple people, the total loss can be significant.
Most Estate Agents Professional Indemnity Insurance will offer cover for loss of data and professional negligence. Should the loss occur through breach of online systems, more comprehensive policies also extend to cover Cyber Liability Insurance for Data Breach.
FREE Business Insurance Review
Insync Insurance is a specialist in financial risks with bespoke policies across a wide variety of professions including Estate Agents.
Our Insurance Gurus can Compare Professional Indemnity Insurance cover from 5+ Insurers in minutes without the need for complex forms.
You can arrange a FREE Business Insurance Review online at a time that suits your diary. Alternatively, call us on 0330 1240730, we would love to hear from you!