An open letter to my team and clients regarding the FNB & Private Property data saga
First of all, thank you for your support through the years and help our team living the dream of running a fully independent company, serving you. I was planning to do a more formal press release, but thought I'd share what I've sent to my team this morning with you to see where we stand as company and the actions we've taken to protect your listing data.
Dear ET Team
As you will know by now, news broke that South African Bank, FNB, has launched a new app that competes with our real estate clients. There has been an incredible social media outrage, to say the least and it promoted further investigation from us.
On Thursday 1 November clients contacted us and asked why their listings appeared on this FNB app as they didn't give any consent to feed their listings. After denials to us and clients that they were feeding to FNB, we established that the feed was indeed originating from Private Property, via the feed provided to them.
What should have been a simple process to remove listings as per our and client requests (since it is their IP & data) turned surprisingly difficult as our requests were ignored with a "we'll looking into it", reply from Private Property and a "we can't reveal our listing sources" from FNB. A final demand to remove Entegral powered feeds from FNB on Thu 1 November wasn't met, and listings are still active on FNB today. The situation is serious, as some agents are even calling for legal action to be taken.
In all my years with Entegral, I've unfortunately never seen such a disrespect for client data, clients or us as service providers who provide such a bulk feed to portals and were key in helping convert Private Property into a competing portal many years ago via our interfaces.
We need to take a stand here as a company and for the estate agent industry in South Africa in general:
- We need to protect client listing data feeds like we always do, and make sure that it doesn't end up on websites that agents have not opted in for.
- We need to encourage more competition in the portal space and continue our support for startup portals and providing the industry's only stand-alone and open API listing syndication system.
- We need to stand up for our clients, and estate agents in South Africa in general as others are affected too, to convey the message that this type of arrogance dealing with client data is totally unacceptable.
- We need to bring more transparency to the real estate industry: agents should know where exactly their data goes, how it is used, and who benefits from it.
- We need the anti-competitive behavior of certain portals and service providers who cling on to client data for dear life to stop. Let agents decide and have control over how they want to use their own IP.
Since both companies have failed to take swift action and are too big to care to remove client listings, we are left with no other option but to terminate our agreement with Private Property with immediate effect.
We will support existing client feeds going forward, but will not provide new clients with this option and we will clearly state our reasons why. An email will go out to clients too with the details and I will encourage them to review their relationship with portals that don't respect their data and to terminate their Private Property feed if they want their listings removed from FNB (as this is, unfortunately, the only way to do it now).
I know you will support me in this, and so will many clients, as our core values are deeply founded as an independent company and we've always stood up for what we believe in is right. Our decision will potentially hurt our business going forward, but as long as we keep our current clients happy and focus on improving our products we will be fine.