One in three Australians do not trust real estate agents when it comes to handing over personal information, a new report has shown.
Despite agents dealing with sensitive information on a daily basis, it appears the Australian people are still warying to hand over their personal information according to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey.
The survey found that Australians were becoming more concerned about privacy risks with organisations expected to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information.
The survey of 1,000 Australians found the three most trustworthy industries were health service providers, trusted by 90 per cent of respondents, financial institutions, trusted by 74 per cent, and the government, trusted by 69 per cent.
The least trusted industries were social media (nine per cent), e-commerce industry (26 per cent), market research organisations (30 per cent), debt collectors (31 per cent) and real estate agents (33 per cent).
Although real estate ranked poorly, the survey revealed that trust in the industry had grown by nine per cent since the survey was last conducted in 2007.
Privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said the implication of the survey was that in the current environment of constant technological change, companies could not afford to relax when it comes to proper data security and information handling practices.
"These results send a very clear message that people remain concerned about how their information will be handled,” he said.
“With a significant number of people saying that they have decided not to deal with an organisation due to privacy concerns, I suggest that businesses need to listen to this and consider improving their practices.”
According to Darren Saunderson from Ultimate Real Estate, cold calling from agents contributed to consumers’ distrust of giving agents their personal information.
“What people don’t want is a phone call at dinner time each night, which is what they’re getting from agents on a cold call basis,” he said.
“They want to steer clear of that. Whenever you say the words, ‘Can I have your details?’ unless there’s a desire or motivation to buy or sell a house, they want to refrain from giving out that information because the last thing they want is a real estate agent calling them up afterhours to ask them questions when they’re not actually interested in or ready to buy or sell a house.”
Mr Saunderson said agents needed to ensure they sought permission from clients to obtain personal details and that any correspondence with them was relevant.
“First and foremost, ensure that they’re okay with you sending them information and let them know what you’re going to do," he advised.
“If we simplify the whole thing, if real estate agents start giving value and start giving information that’s useful and not predictable, then I think that will go a long way in changing people’s perceptions.”