The risk of waiting to comply with POPI

popiMany organisations are taking a so-called ‘wait and see’ approach to the Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 (“the Act”). The Act has been signed into law by the President on 19 November 2013 already, but regrettably not much has happened since.

The appointment and establishment of the Information Regulator is however underway and is expected to be approved by the National Assembly after the local elections in August 2016 (which is around the corner). Thereafter the much anticipated Regulations will be published and the Act will come into force on a date which is to be announced by the President.

The Act stipulates how companies may collect, handle, store and discard information.  Once the Act is in force, affected parties will have a one-year transitional period before having to comply with these provisions.  This seems like ample time, but the reality is compliance will take much longer than that.  Particularly in larger organisations or organisations of any size that base their business model on collecting, storing and using information. Some practical examples include marketers, IT companies and e – commerce to name only a few.

The Act places a strict onus on all companies to comply with the eight conditions for processing personal information set out in chapter 3 of the Act.  Failure to comply is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

The Information Regulator will have the power to investigate and impose penalties for breaches of the Act.  Any person alleging interference with the protection of personal information may submit a complaint to the Regulator.  The Regulator may issue an enforcement notice after investigating a complaint and a failure to comply with this notice may lead to a fine of up to R10 million or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or even both.

The implications of non-compliance is therefore very serious. It is therefore essential that affected parties including affected businesses use the next year to conduct POPI audits and put POPI policies in place.  Contact a specialist at SchoemanLaw to assist your business today.

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