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Estate agents warned over WhatsApp rules change ‘ticking timebomb’

Sales and letting agents who use their personal WhatsApp to communicate with customers risk being sued by the platform and are in breach of GDPR and privacy laws, it is claimed.

Nigel Lewis

The thousands of estate agents who use the free version of WhatsApp on their smartphones to communicate with customers are exposing themselves to prosecution by Whatsapp and could face action by regulators over GDPR and privacy laws, it has been claimed.

The use of WhatsApp within the sales and lettings industry is now widespread, but many agencies from small independents to large corporates often have no idea their staff are breaching the conditions of WhatsApp’s T&Cs.

Most estate agents assume that the hugely popular free version of he app, which for example some 80% of people aged between 18 and 44 years old use on their personal smartphones to message friends and family, can be used for business.

But the Facebook-owned platform has, since December, brought in new terms that say people who use it for ‘non-personal’ use could be sued.

At the same time WhatsApp is encouraging business users to sign up to its paid-for ‘for business service’.

Paul Gandar (left), whose company Stitch enables agents to comply with WhatsApp’s new rules as well as be GDPR and privacy law compliant, says thousands of agencies across the UK are unaware of the new requirements.

He says agents are either oblivious to the changes, turning a blind eye to employees using their personal WhatsApp for business purposes or, in some extreme cases, hacking the service to avoid the extra costs.

Gandar – whose company has already rolled out its service to several big-name agencies in London, has signed up PR company Proptech-PR.com and will soon have an app live on Reapit’s Foundations platform – also warns agents that even if they are using the ‘for business’ version they cannot use the tool to prospect for instructions.

Watch a video on why agent’s should be careful about using Whatsapp.

Read the Whatsapp rules on business usage.

 

February 28, 2020

One comment

  1. As the move is continuing towards short messaging and quick information at your finger tips it is no surprise that some agents and law firms are moving in this direction.

    I would personally rather read a quick WhatsApp of ‘your contracts have been received’ or ‘your searches have been ordered’ from a solicitor than a long email or even something through the post.

    I’ve always got time for WhatsApp, admittedly interspersed with the lads chat about golf, but I can read and digest a short message easier than anything drafted in language of the 1900’s sent from my solicitor or agent just because they call themselves ‘traditional’!!!

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