Personal information Bill will limit cold calling

The Protection of Personal Information Bill (PPIB) was passed by Cabinet on 14 August 2009, but has not yet become law.

If and when it does, the way in which information is collected, processed, stored and disseminated will change.

The PPIB is intended to protect individuals against the unlawful and sometimes intrusive collection and use of personal information. At the same time, however, legislators remain aware of the need for freedom of information flow.

In essence, the Bill seeks to balance both arguments, but at its heart is the protection of the individual and his or her right to control the dissemination of personal information.

So far, there has been very little protection of personal information in South Africa—certainly far less than in our European counterparts.

One aspect is the cold calling by financial intermediaries of potential clients. Firstly, the intermediary must first check existing records to see whether that individual has previously requested no further contact. If not, the intermediary may contact the person but the potential client must be given the chance to end the conversation immediately. Only if the potential client provides their consent can the intermediary collect and process personal information like income and existing policies.

The only time in which it is lawful to process personal information without consent is when the company concerned is protecting a “legitimate interest”. For example, in the insurance industry a customer would have a legitimate interest in an existing policy which he or she owned. Processing of personal information by the company in order to protect this interest or right would be allowed—like holding on to their contact information.

  • Herman Botha is a broker distribution executive at Metropolitan
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