Editor’s note: This article is republished with permission from Global Edge Marketing Ltd. View original post.

Foxtons, the United Kingdom’s most notorious estate agency chain, is suing a former senior director and his partner for allegedly stealing the company’s client list and other confidential data to set up a competing agency, according to the London Evening Standard.

In papers filed at the High Court of England and Wales, Foxtons accuses former employee Timothy Hassell and his partner, Christopher Andrew, of stealing "large amounts" of information relating to 2,500 clients for their new London agency, Draker Lettings.

The information includes property addresses, landlords’ bank and contact details, rental figures, charged fees, and start and end dates for tenancies, the newspaper said.

Legal documents claim Hassell secretly copied huge tracts from the database in the months before he quit, and printouts seized during a court-ordered raid on Draker’s premises support the claims.

Mr. Hassell has agreed to settle out of court after Foxtons demanded a minimum of £300,000 ($473,870 in U.S. currency) in damages.

"I did something very stupid, and I have been made to pay the maximum possible price, financially and emotionally. I regret what I did," he said.

Protecting your data

Although very few of our readers will have the resources available to Foxtons, we all face similar risks. Our customer database is usually the most valuable asset we own and when senior employees leave, there is always a risk they will steal the database that you spent considerable time and expense creating.

Foxtons spends £3 million ($4.7 million) a year creating and protecting its client database, but there are many ways you can protect your data with out installing expensive "big brother" technology or employing top lawyers.  

Having water-tight employment contracts with non-compete clauses is a common way but inserting "seed" records into your database is another option that is worthy of consideration.

If you are concerned about protecting your data, it is worthwhile setting up two or three e-mail accounts with dummy names and inserting the data into your database. It is free if you use a provider like Google’s e-mail service or Hotmail. Personally, I prefer to use my own registered domains as I can make them look more like estate agencies so they are more difficult to filter out. 

Money well spent if you value your data.

Copyright © 2010 Global Edge Marketing Ltd.

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