Business Analysis

Dominique Grubisa's predatory 'game-changer'

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Dominique Grubisa is encouraging her students to breach privacy protections in acquiring property data (Image via Vimeo)

Self-professed property maven Dominique Grubisa is encouraging students to engage in an unethical marketing strategy. David Donovan examines the newest episode in Grubisa's dodgy practices.

BEFORE THE DUST had settled on the announcement that Archistar and Domain Group followed CoreLogic in severing ties with Dominique Grubisa’s business, DG Institute, Grubisa was telling her students she was launching a new FastProperty platform.

The ever-shrinking Grubisa told her customers she loved a quote she incorrectly attributed to Einstein:

“If you can’t explain something simply then you don’t understand it.”

Grubisa went on to say that ‘less is more’ and that she is really excited about the new platform which is a ‘simple, quick and easy interface for property entrepreneurs’.

For years, she was excited about data sourced through CoreLogic and then her new platform became a game changer [4 minutes in]. That new platform was Archistar and used data obtained from Domain Group.

She’s now super excited about her “less is more” new platform. Clearly shopping around for new sources of data, having been kicked to the curb by numerous companies.

In a video in May, Grubisa told her students [4 minutes, 30 seconds in]:

“We’ve logged into Pricefinder [a Domain product] which having test driven it for the last month or so, I believe it is superior to CoreLogic.”

So, if it was superior, why did Grubisa’s company sue CoreLogic?

The new relationship with Archistar and Domain didn’t last long. May we say, rightfully so? We wait with bated breath to hear more about the new platform.

We should commend CoreLogic, Domain and Archistar for their action. At the same time, it’s worth looking at why these companies might have been required to take this action beyond doing so for the greater good.

In her Real Estate Rescue manual, Grubisa goes through the strategies involved in targeting people in financial distress, deceased estates and those who are parties to Family Court proceedings. As we reported in May, there is nothing in the Family Court list that identifies the nature of the proceedings. So those being targeted might be involved in proceedings relating to parenting orders, location and recovery orders, warrants for the apprehension or determination of parentage.

Her strategies involve first finding a “motivated” vendor through court lists, government gazettes and so on, then searching for that person through the data provided by the information broker. The next step is to write to the owner [pp 81-82 of the Real Estate Rescue manual].

The information brokers who provide subscription services have agreements with various state governments. Those agreements impose conditions on the information brokers that are also required to be imposed in agreements between the information brokers and end users.

People like Grubisa’s students.

Information brokers that obtain bulk data from the Queensland Valuation and Sales System (QVAS) are bound by a code of conduct. The QVAS database is administered by the Queensland Department of Resources by the Valuer General. Brokers are provided access to the data on the condition it is not used for direct marketing and on other conditions.

In 2014, law firm Clayton Utz lodged a notification of exclusive dealing with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding the intention of the former Department of Natural Resources and Mines (now Department of Resources) to require brokers who were provided with access to the QVAS database to become members of an incorporated association called the Value Added Property Information Brokers Association Incorporated (VAPIBA).

The notification made to the ACCC included a submission.

Paragraph 3.6 of that statement said (in part) [IA emphasis]:

‘The Code was developed in consultation with the information broker industry to ensure that data about property ownership, in particular information which identifies, the owner, buyers and sellers of property, is managed responsibly and is used in accordance with government licences. The Code prohibits the use of personal information for unsolicited direct marketing.’

What is direct marketing?

The Code defines it as:

‘One-to-one marketing, normally supported by a database, which uses one or more advertising media to affect a measurable response and/or transaction from a person and includes, but is not limited to, telemarketing, bulk email messaging, postal canvassing and list brokering.’

So, the sort of conduct encouraged by Grubisa in seeking out people from court lists, matching that information from the QVAS database and canvassing these people by post to ‘affect a measurable response’.

Under the Code, those who breach these conditions face sanctions which can include customers being prevented from access to such data by any broker [paragraph 16.2.5 of the Code]. The brokers themselves can also face serious sanctions including a permanent ban from access to the QVAS database [paragraph 16.2.3 of the Code].

Other states have imposed similar conditions in their agreements with information brokers which are reflected in the end user terms between the information brokers and their customers.

The end user terms from CoreLogic detail such conditions.

For example, Clause B4.1 of the CoreLogic user conditions states that in relation to data (the VA Data) supplied by Landgate (in Western Australia) the customer ‘will not use the VA Data for the purposes of direct marketing’. It also prohibits the use of VA Data for sale or deriving revenue from VA Data or any part thereof.

Something Grubisa’s business does through her Elite Mentoring and Fast Tracker programs by sending out lists to her clients with the personal details of people to target.  

In relation to NSW, customers are prohibited from using LPI Personal Information ‘for any purpose other than appropriate and legal data verification purposes’ (Clause B1.2). So, surely not targeting people through use of that data!

In South Australia, data must not be used for compiling contact lists, whether personalised or not (Clause B4.12). Again, something that Grubisa does by producing such lists weekly for her Fast Tracker and Elite Mentoring clients.

In 2008, then PhD candidate and now Associate Professor of Law at the Queensland University of Technology, Mark Burdon, published a paper titled ‘Profiting from personal information: Power, information privacy and evidenced-based policy’. It’s worth a read, particularly in relation to conceptualisations about privacy derived from Orwell’s Big Brother and Kafka’s The Trial.

In his paper, Burdon referred to a Federal Court case in 2007 between RP Data (now the Australian subsidiary of CoreLogic) and the State of Queensland which related to the use of personal information for income generation purposes.

That case related to an application by RP Data to the Federal Court of Australia with a claim that the terms on which the State of Queensland was prepared to renew a licence agreement with RP Data breached the Trade Practices Act. That application was dismissed. Those changes were largely driven by complaints made in relation to direct marketing by real estate agents.

Her Honour Justice Berna Collier noted in the case that changes to the Valuation of Land Act (Qld) resulted from:

“...the concerns of Parliament as to direct marketing activities using departmental data.”

Her Honour went on to quote the second reaching speech on 23 March 2003, regarding those changes, in which then Minister Stephen Robertson said:

By giving the Chief Executive of my department the power to prohibit the disclosure, or limit the distribution of, bulk valuation and sales data already supplied to bulk data distributors, it means that these distributors will no longer be permitted to allow the distribution of an owner’s name and address for any direct marketing purposes.

 

This will be achieved by inserting clauses in the new contract agreements with distributors. Any breach of these conditions will result in loss of the agreement.

That Act has been repealed and replaced with the Land Valuation Act 2010. That Act, in Section 208, permits contracts with data providers to limit the purpose to which data may be used. And that is reflected in the terms of contracts that prohibit the type of direct marketing in which Grubisa encourages her students to engage.

IA does not know to whom Grubisa has now turned for her new FastProperty platform. But whoever it is might have some problems ahead.

Certainly, we think it’s well beyond time that those charged with dealing with the use of property data for predatory purposes should step up.

Follow IA founder David G Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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