Software provider e4 sides with conveyancers in battle against ProxiSmart
Conveyancing should remain the domain of the conveyancer.
Software as a service technology company, e4, has reiterated its support for conveyancers and legal practitioners following a recent ruling in the Pretoria High Court, which found administrative processes inherent to property transfers in South Africa should remain within the ambit of the legal fraternity.
Despite the High Court's dismissal of newly established ProxiSmart and its business model, which proposed aspects of administrative work within property transfers be dealt with outside the legal profession, ProxiSmart now plans to launch an appeal.
"Conveyancers are highly skilled and qualified members of the legal profession and provide a specialised, professional service. For numerous reasons, our view is that it is in the public interest for this work to remain in practiced hands," says Clive Bredenkamp, Head of e4's Legal Studio division.
Papers filed by ProxiSmart in the High Court suggest the use of a custom-built, partitioned conveyancing software platform. "For a newly established entity like ProxiSmart, it is our view that the creation of such a platform would take years to complete in order to cater for the level of functionality and integration with institutions as described in the court papers. e4 approached ProxiSmart twice with a written request for more detail on whether the platform has been built and its current state of readiness, or if it has engaged with an existing software vendor in this regard. ProxiSmart's response was that it would not be appropriate to comment until the case before the court is finalised, including the appeal. The judgment of the court states it is common cause that ProxiSmart has not yet developed the software, but this gives no status as to how it is being built."
"Given that e4 is categorically not involved with this initiative, the market should be asking how this software platform is being or will be provided and by whom, with the intent on disrupting the conveyancing process," notes Bredenkamp.
"e4 sees a very different future for conveyancers. We firmly believe in empowering our attorney clients by providing them with the best digital platforms and products, allowing them to deliver efficient services to the consumer. A number of our new mobile apps are geared at exactly that and seek to build on our long-standing relationships with our conveyancing clients," adds Bredenkamp.
"In our opinion, the ProxiSmart business model, which seeks to change and disrupt the current status quo, is cause for great concern and would profoundly undermine and disempower conveyancers, should the forthcoming court appeal succeed. The major banks are also likely to look unfavourably on any party looking to try to take control of the market in this way. In our view, there was too little focus in the initial court papers on the technology side of the proposed platform and how ProxiSmart intends providing this, which is critically important. A closed platform for a small, select set of users is simply not a constructive approach to the future of the industry. Instead, the expertise of the profession, combined with the incredible technology that is becoming more readily available from a range of tech companies, is the way to improve efficiencies and move the profession and the market forward."
Bredenkamp says e4 is in agreement with various legal bodies that conveyancers are best placed to continue the responsibility for ensuring legally sound property transfers. "The conveyancer is the trusted custodian of the property transfer process and it is only right that all work involved in that process is reserved for the conveyancer."