The impact of the delayed implementation of POPI on consumers

“I’ve read in the media that the Information Regulator has again delayed the coming into operation of POPI Act. As a consumer, I’ve been waiting for this to happen to help stop the abuse one has to suffer from marketing emails, phone calls and the blatant and unauthorised sharing of my personal information. How long will this delay be and when can I expect my rights to start being protected?”

Your views and frustrations are shared by many consumers, and you are correct to note that the Information Regulator has again delayed the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (“POPI”) from coming into operation. Although we don’t know when POPI will become operational, it is anticipated that this will not be before 2019. Fortunately, it is not a case of if, but rather only when, as POPI has already been passed as legislation, with only its effective date postponed.

Although consumers are not without remedy now – there is legislation such as the Consumer Protection Act and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, that already afford consumers certain protection – it is frustrating, as the belief is that POPI will help address many of the broader challenges that consumers face, particularly in respect of the unscrupulous abuse of their personal information. 

POPI aims specifically to regulate the entities that receive and process personal information, including the parties they provide your information to downstream, to avoid abuse and unauthorised use and sharing of your personal information, including restrictions on cross-border transfer thereof. Further, it also imposes restrictions on directing marketing activities by electronic means, which has become a blight in the lives of many consumers.

Once POPI becomes operational, it will provide the necessary legislative framework to address many of the issues consumers face today and provide structures to help enforce such framework. Whether that will help curb these problems and within what timeframes, time will only tell, but the basis for such protection of privacy of our consumers will be properly laid.

In the meantime, businesses and consumers are unsure as to how to proceed, what to expect and what rights they can enforce. For businesses, our advice is to get ready and use the time to align your business practices with POPI. For the consumer, it is still a waiting game for the moment, although you are not without remedy. In circumstances of serious abuse, consider talking to your attorney about other remedies that may already be available to you.

April 6, 2018
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