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Businesses not aware POPI penalties

| Legislation

About 39% of South African businesses are unaware of the significant penalties that may result from a violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) which is expected to become law in 2016.

This is according the 2015 Metrofile Records and Information Management Trends Index, which was conducted among over 200 management executives from local business operating mainly in the financial services, business services, industrial and information and communication technology sectors, among others.

Wayne Clarke, Metrofile Records Management Managing Director, a group company of JSE listed Metrofile Holdings Limited, says that the consequences for a violation of POPI could amount to either a R10m fine or even 10 years imprisonment.

“With the implementation date of POPI drawing near, it is distressing that a large number of South African organisations remain unaware of the hefty penalties involved.”

He points to the survey which also indicated that a staggering 22% of companies in the country have not yet implemented measures to ensure POPI compliance.

“Many organisations have postponed the process due to a lack of resources and expertise, but the tailoring of business processes must not be viewed as an inconvenience.”

Clarke explains that the employment of a consultant who is familiar with both the POPI requirements, as well as best practises with regards to records and information management, can prove to be a worthwhile investment.

“While the enactment of POPI may place significant demands on the resources of organisations, it may also present several key benefits and there are affordable options available for organisations to outsource this responsibility.”

Clarke points to the survey which revealed that only 37% of businesses have already or will consider outsourcing their records management requirements to ensure POPI compliance.

“This is quite alarming, because partnering with an expert can provide several benefits for businesses. In addition to avoiding the consequences of failing to ensure POPI compliance, advantages can include improved customer relationships, quality of data and overall businesses management as less time is spent on administrative functions freeing employees up to work on the core business functions.”

Clarke says that customer satisfaction may also increase when customers know that their information and associated interaction with the organisation is secure and protected.

“In achieving and maintaining POPI compliance, organisations are in a position where they are able to confidently reassure customers that their information is safeguarded.”

He suggests that the organisations communicate their progress with customers and stakeholders to maintain a good relationship.

In an effort to achieve compliance, many organisations will need to sift through and review the company database in order to ensure that no personal details are included on correspondence to unauthorised parties, he explains.

“These organisations can therefore also update databases to ensure that all its consumer and stakeholder information is correct and relevant.”

He adds that for those organisations that are looking to gain a competitive advantage through mass surveys and data-collection, they can now simply partner with a POPI compliant service provider to ensure that all data is ethically sourced and legally sound.

“Partnering with an expert can not only save an organisation time and money, but also ensure that a holistic and opportunistic approach is taken to streamline business processes,” concludes Clarke.

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