By now you have heard the story of the King and the MiWay sales agent?

In brief, a MiWay agent phoned the King of the Zulu nation, without knowing who he was calling. A simple mistake.

They had a short call. The King explained who he is. And why he does not need insurance. He was gracious and ended giving a traditional blessing. Nothing wrong with that.

And then it went wonky.

The soundtrack found its way online.

The POPI act almost bans direct marketing. It stems from pushy telesales people. They are relentless. They won't take you off their lists. They don't behave well.

The King is famous. Any news about him will get attention. As sharing this soundtrack did.

The POPI act does not yet have teeth. The Regulator cannot yet impose fines. Nor can it send people to jail. Yet.

But the Regulator put out a statement last week. It said it "noted with concern" this "unlawful processing". And that it will "engage with MiWay proactively".

The Information Regulator won't have many staff. Many of us see this as a reason to ignore POPI. Who will actually chase us?

The gotcha in the Act is that we must chase ourselves. If we face a breach like this we must report ourselves to the Regulator.

This "breach" was by an employee of the firm. First, inside the firm as he told colleagues. Then online as someone published the soundtrack. Right now MiWay carries only the costs. (Tarnished image, lost sales, PR time and effort, ...)

After the POPI Act goes live there would be the added cost of dealing with the Regulator, the court case, the legal fees, and the fines.

What if the King hadn't been as gracious? Imagine that he suffered some pain, some loss from other people hearing that chat? He would sue the company as soon as the Regulator found MiWay liable. And he would win. (It turns out he is thinking of doing this right now anyway.)

This kind of mistake happens. POPI aims to hold someone liable. The only way it can achieve that is to penalise us if we make this kind of mistake. Hence the threat of huge penalties. Otherwise, in true South African style, we would ignore it.

("Us" would be people who hold private info about others as part of our business efforts.)

POPI is here to stay. It's an inexorable global trend.

Click here to find out all about POPI for small business. We deliver a free course via email over 12 days.