Data protection D-day is here – SA companies take heed

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gdrpGDPR is here, and for organisations that deal with any personal information relating to EU member states, non-compliance will be ruinous.

The countdown has ended. D-day for enforcement of the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is here.

As of today, 25 May 2018, penalties will begin rolling in for organisations that have not yet taken the necessary steps to ensure they are compliant with this restructured – and considerably more stringent – set of data protection regulations.

The GDPR is a regulation borne out of the European Parliament, Council of the European Union and European Commission’s joint intent to strengthen and unify data protection for EU citizens.

But just because the GDPR is an EU regulation, South African organisations are by no means off the hook. On the contrary, experts warn, local companies need to take the GDPR – positioned as one of the most significant changes in data privacy regulation in 20 years – very seriously.

The inescapable fact is, any South African company that handles personal data connected to the EU has to comply with the GDPR, and failure to do so will be met with the same major consequences EU organisations face for non-compliance.

Far-reaching forces

Over recent decades, not only has personal data has become an increasingly important corporate asset that needs to be handled with extreme care, it has also become geographically agnostic. This means that, today more than ever, with the exponential growth of data propagated across borders, organisations globally need to take a staunch and unified approach to guarding it.

South African organisations, big or small, are no different – and the GDPR is not the only government-led product of this hugely digital age, nor will it be the last, it is merely the latest one to be enforced.

Leilani Smit, compliance professional at Smit Compliance (Pty) Ltd, notes that the GDPR applies to any local organisation that holds or processes data on EU citizens, regardless of the location of its head office. “This includes companies that have employees in the EU, sell or market products or services in the EU, or partner with EU organisations.”

Leon van der Merwe, head of digital at customer communication firm PBSA and director of local digital signature and workflow solution SignFlow, adds that any South African entity controlling or processing data relating to EU citizens is affected by the GDPR. “Controlling refers to any organisation that states why and how data is processed, while a processor is any party doing the actual processing of the data, whether based in the EU, or not.”

World Wide Worx MD, Arthur Goldstuck, says the effects of the GDPR will be far-reaching due to the fact that the EU is SA’s biggest trade partner. “[On top of this], any company that does business with a company that has to comply with GDPR, will also have to comply, to ensure the client is in compliance.”

GDPR vs POPI

Fortunately for SA, details around the country’s own local version of data protection policy – the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act – have been highly publicised since 2013, and many companies will already be familiar – some even largely compliant – with what is expected of them in terms of data protection.

Summing up SA’s POPI Act, Michalson’s says: “Essentially, the purpose of [POPI] is to protect people from harm by protecting their personal information. To stop their money being stolen, to stop their identity being stolen, and generally to protect their privacy, which is a fundamental human right.”

Although – unlike the GDPR – it is still not known when POPI will come into effect, what is known is that companies will have a one-year transitional phase in which to comply once POPI’s implementation date is made public.

Smit says, should a local company already be compliant with international legislation such as GDPR, the implementation of policies to comply with POPI “should be a breeze and not require anything other than normal company practices and procedures”.

Van der Merwe says POPI and GDPR are similar in that both are intended to strengthen the protection of individuals’ personal information and privacy, and it is precisely this element – intention – that is key here, says Goldstuck.

The high price of non-compliance

Another area in which both sets of rules are similar, is in the hefty fines that come with non-compliance.

In a nutshell: breach rules laid out in the POPI Act, and face a R10 million fine and/or a jail sentence; fail to comply with the GDPR’s regulations, and be prepared to be slapped with a fine of up to €20 million (about R290 million) – or 4% of annual sales (whichever is greater).

Smit comments: “In South African terms, POPI already poses strict penalties for non-compliance, however as far as our Rand stretches, the GDPR’s penalties will definitely cause sleepless nights.”

Although possibly the biggest concern for companies, Smit notes that financial implications are not the only implications they should be worried about. “Not only can non-compliance result in fines and penalties set by the legislation itself, but [the] reputational damage of not processing information correctly, can often be more damaging that the initial penalty itself.”

It is this high price of non-compliance IT and legal experts hope will drive South African companies to do the right thing – not only for themselves, but ultimately for their customers – and fervently strive to meet GDPR compliance criteria.

Consumer-centric control

Van der Merwe says it is all about the consumer. “Both GDPR and POPI were ultimately created to protect the consumer’s privacy. We are all someone’s consumer, and even small businesses owners need to think carefully and logically about areas in their business where personal information is processed or stored, and what vulnerabilities may exist in their processes.

“For instance, we all receive CVs that contain heaps of personal and even sensitive information. Often, after a host of interviews, only the person’s CV that is employed, is securely transferred to a digital or physical vault in HR. What happens to the rest of the CVs that did not make it? It is the responsibility of any business to have policies and procedures to timeously and responsibly destroy such information. Simply identifying these vulnerabilities and implementing logical measures to manage them, is a good start for any size business.

“GDPR is a good thing that could be very bad news for companies, if they fail to provide evidentiary and auditable processes and adequate IT security to protect personal data.”

Goldstuck adds that it is not only important, but essential, that South African companies have a global view on data protection. “Something as simple as having a website hosted on an international platform can make a company liable to sanction under GDPR.”

Teaming up with tech

When it comes to local companies complying with the seemingly daunting and complicated GDPR in a relatively pain-free way, experts agree technology will be key. Software systems that offer automation, content management, enterprise resource planning and accounting, among others, will become a lifeline for many companies in their quest to comply.

Van der Merwe says existing paper-based processes and antiquated electronic systems that were created prior to factors such as the GDPR and POPI, pose major risks of contravening their laws and directives. “It is all about how businesses – and governments themselves – are going to align their physical and data processing practices with the new requirements and legislation. New regulations that enforce concepts such as the right to be forgotten pose major challenges if not considered in the process from the outset.”

Goldstuck says, while the data protection laws necessitate considerable changes in the ways businesses operate and interact with customers, good compliance systems will provide most of the safeguards they need.

“Businesses will have to get permission for almost every interaction with customers, they will have to become more discerning in what information they require from customers, and they will have to institute strict compliance systems to ensure they do not fall foul of these laws. As a result, compliance officers, CIOs and CTOs will have more direct roles to play in customer strategy.”

Don’t delay

Although not yet enforceable, the commencement date for POPI has been looming large on the horizon for some time now, with many expecting it by the end of 2018.

Despite this, say experts, many organisations are far from being ready. Goldstuck says: “Most large businesses have geared themselves up to comply with POPI, although many have not put this gearing up into effect. However, there is also an impression that many companies are simply not bothering until they are forced.”

Forrester’s 2018 predictions indicate that a whopping 80% of firms will not comply with GDPR regulations by May this year.

This has to change – and fast – says Smit. “Businesses can no longer just take a backseat and hope this will pass by or fly over.  Active steps will have to be taken in an organisation, for instance staff training, risk assessments and creating an ethical culture within an organisation, specifically with regards to processing personal information.”

 

 

[REFERENCES]

  1. EUR-Lex – Access to European Law
  2. org – Web learning resources for the EU General Data Protection Regulation
  3. Government Gazette (justice.gov.za) – Act No. 4 of 2013: Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013
  4. Michalson’s – POPI Act Summary in Plain Language
  5. Forrester – Predictions 2018: A Year of Reckoning

Breaking the Crèche Syndrome cycle

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Parents

The phenomenon whereby crèche-going children are repeatedly plagued by viruses can be beaten with a simple & affordable solution: an air purifier.

 For parents of young children, the term “Crèche Syndrome” will most likely be both very familiar and utterly dreaded. Familiar, because the phenomenon – which involves crèche-attending children coming down with repeated episodes of illness – is both very real and very common; and dreaded, because it is something both hugely disruptive and largely out of parents’ hands.

According to Cape Town-based paediatrician Dr Willem Smit, Crèche Syndrome is not a condition that features in medical literature, yet it is “probably the most common chronic condition seen by paediatricians in private practice”.

Dr Smit explains, “Crèche Syndrome is a condition of recurring wet cough and excessive upper respiratory snottiness and secretions in a [day care or crèche] setting in the age group of 0-3 years.”

He says crèche-attending children can get as many as 10 -20 upper airway infections per year, mainly common colds caused by viruses. “During each episode they could have 10-20 days of a runny nose and a cough as well as fever for the first three days (72hours).”

This is not taking into account the often serious secondary infections and complications that can occur from viral infections, Smit points out.

Multiple days away from work to look after a sick child is something no working parent can afford, nor is the trauma of seeing little ones in distress something any parent ever wants to have to endure.

Tried and tested – research confirms results

The good news is that, by taking one simple step, crèches and day care centres can protect the children they are trusted custodians over, and break the ongoing cycle of viruses and infections that afflict them – especially at this time of year. That step is investing in an air purifier.

Studies have shown that using an air purifier in a crèche or day care environment is an effective means of removing and preventing the airborne germs and pollutants that cause children’s ongoing health issues.

According to Healthy But Smart, a social enterprise dedicated to helping people make evidence-based decisions regarding their health, there is a good amount of research that has been done on the effectiveness of air purifiers.

“Recent studies…showed that air purifiers are efficient not only as a protection to the more obvious allergies, but also to cardio vascular health and other hazards.”

The organisation adds that, aside from general health benefits, studies show improvement in asthma management and the health of allergy sufferers when a good quality air purifier – such as those that utilise high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters – is used.

All of PBSA’s air purifiers work by way of HEPA filters that clean and purify the air that is circulated and inhaled indoors. HEPA filters physically trap the tiny germs and particles that are merely recirculated into the air – and exacerbated – by cleaning agents.

In a nutshell, an air purifier’s job is three-fold: kill germs, filter particles and remove volatile organic compounds (hazardous air pollutants that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and even damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system).

When it is children’s health that is at stake, cleaning the air they breathe with a proven solution – air purification – should be at the top of schools’ priority lists.

For information on pbOffice’s (a PBSA division) range of air purification systems, visit our Air Purifiers web page, or call 010 300 4893.

 

REFERENCES

  1. Dr Willem Smit – https://www.facebook.com/drwillemsmit/posts/1061171520655407
  2. Wikipedia: Volatile Organic Compounds – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound
  3. Healthy But Smart: Are Air Purifiers Helpful? The Research Reviewed – https://healthybutsmart.com/air-purifiers/

Clean air, longer life

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breathe easy indoorsExtend your life expectancy by cleaning the indoor air you breathe with an air purifier.

You eat well, don’t smoke, exercise fairly regularly and drink alcohol in moderation – and yet, some days, you feel like you’ve been hit by a large bus.

Sound familiar?

Because air pollutants are often not visible to the naked eye, many of us don’t realise just how debilitating poor quality indoor air can be on the human body – but the effects of indoor air pollution should not be overlooked. They range from short-term afflictions – like eye, nose and throat irritations – to more serious long-term effects like respiratory disease and even cardiovascular conditions.

And, while we may think we can eliminate common culprits like pet dander, dust, smoke and mould spores by keeping a clean home or office, the fact is that dusting and vacuuming are simply not enough to remove all these daily pollutants from the air we breathe.

But fret not, because it’s not all doom and gloom for those after a life of health and longevity in a world where clean air seems like an unattainable ideal – help is at hand.

Think of air purifiers as pollution-busting superheroes – except these clean air crusaders are by no means fictitious or out of reach – they are practical, affordable and dependable devices that have been proven to improve and lengthen lives, if not save them.

Air purifiers work by way of HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters that clean and purify the air that is circulated – and that you breathe daily – indoors. HEPA filters physically trap the tiny particles that vacuum cleaners and other cleaning equipment merely recirculates into the air.

A health must-have in your home or office, air purifiers not only clear airborne bacteria quickly and quietly, they are also very effective in the removal of odours, allergens and other pollutants that are inevitably present in indoor air. In fact, research has shown that HEPA filters remove about 99.9% of dust particles and impurities from the air.

According to The New York Times, studies have found improved air quality has prevented tens of thousands of premature deaths from heart and respiratory disease. Simply put, “Clean air, longer life” (Harvard Magazine).

The conclusion: air purification equals the removal of impurities…equals clean air…equals better health…equals longer life.

So you have to ask yourself, can you afford not to invest in an air purifier?

For information on pbOffice’s range of air purification systems, visit our Air Purifiers web page, or call 010 300 4893.

Optimise your business mail system with a Relay inserter

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Relay 1000When it comes to the mail you send out to customers, time and cost savings are just two of the many ways in which your business can benefit from a quality inserter.  

pbOffice, a division of customer communication firm PBSA, has just introduced a new, improved range of mail inserters, serving mailing needs from small- to large-scale. Read more about the new Relay range of inserters, manufactured by Pitney Bowes, HERE.

Wondering why you should invest in an inserter for your business in the first place?

Before going into the huge advantages an inserter can bring your business in terms of productivity, efficiency and professionalism, it is important to note that traditional mail as a means of engaging customers is far from dead.

On the contrary, traditional mail has been widely advocated as the most effective means of communication. People have a strong sense of nostalgia when it comes to physical mail and – if done properly – this means of communication and marketing can really help your business stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Mail folding and inserting machines not only give your business mail the professional touch, they also ensure the right mail gets out on time, to the right customer – and far more speedily and painlessly than with a manual system.

If you are sending mail out the manual way, your process probably goes something like the time-consuming and tedious process outlined below:

  1. Gather all printed documents, inserts and outer envelopes.
  2. Manually fold documents, trying to make them look as professional and neat as possible.
  3. Select and include all the necessary inserts, checking and double-checking these are all in the correct order.
  4. Manually insert the documents and inserts you just put in order into envelopes.
  5. You are now ready to mail the one piece of mail you just prepared (but you probably have hundreds more to go).
  6. Put plasters on your paper cuts.
  7. Repeat

With a Relay inserter, this could be turned into a simple, speedy and precise process – like the one below:

  1. Load documents, inserts and envelopes.
  2. Select job on keypad.
  3. Stand back as the machine prepares the job.
  4. Ready to mail.

But time-saving is just one of the many advantages that comes with investing in a Relay inserter for your business.

An inserter will also allow you to correspond with your customers more regularly; easily add revenue-generating inserts; improve the security of mail with envelopes that stay sealed; align mailing addresses for a precise fit in envelope windows and deliver frequent promotional mailings.

If you are a business that regularly communicates with customers via mail, a Relay inserter is not just a luxury – it is a must-have.

Relay inserters are machines you can stake your business on.

For more information call 010 300 4893.

 

PBSA upgrades to Relay inserter range

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Relay 3000 & 4000The customer communication firm has just launched a new suite of mail folding and inserting machines that will fit any size business’ needs.

Being a company that believes in moving with the times – and bringing its customers only state-of-the-art technology – PBSA has upgraded its folding and inserting machines to the Relay range from global technology company Pitney Bowes.

The move gives pbOffice – the division of PBSA that provides automation solutions to serve mailing, marketing and communication applications for small and medium-sized enterprises – the ability to better serve its customers by being able to more accurately align machine specifications to specific application needs.

Quieter to operate and more aesthetically pleasing, the new Relay inserter range is more office-friendly. More importantly though, the Relay ranges drives higher performance, increasing productivity and allowing you to focus your time and energy on driving your business.

The Relay range of inserters comes with a number of vital features and scores of benefits. These state-of-the-art machines come with guarantees of:

  1. Data protection for your customers: This is an invaluable benefit, especially given the country’s personal information laws (does the term POPI Act ring any bells?).
  2. More productivity, less wasted time & money: Relay inserters offer a proven, easy-to-use platform that delivers fast, accurate and affordable mail assembly.
  3. 100% Accuracy – every time: The Relay range of inserters was specifically designed to deliver accurate, reliable processing of mail – so you can be confident your mail is not only getting out on time, but the right information is getting to the right customer. Every time.
  4. Ease of use: Even if you’re not technically inclined, you can be up and running with your Relay inserter in no time, ensureing your monthly mail gets out quickly and easily.
  5. Customisation: You shouldn’t have to tailor your mail programmes to the limitations of your equipment. With the Relay range of inserters, you have the ability to process various sizes of letters with the option of processing flat-sized envelopes or mailers.

For more information and model specifications relating to the various machines offered by pbOffice, click on the links below:

For more information on pbOffice products and services call 010 300 4893.

Mining and the air you breathe – how you can mitigate the health risks

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coal mining pollutionThe effects of mining on human health are shocking. Take control of the air you breathe indoors with an air purification system.

South Africa is a mining mecca and, while the country’s mining riches may be great for the economy, the same cannot be said for our health.

Fortunately, however, the serious health risks associated with mining pollution – as outlined in this article, below – can be considerably mitigated by purifying the indoor air you breathe at home and at work with a good quality air purification system.

pbOffice, a division of PBSA, offers a range German-made air purifiers, humidifiers and combo units to serve all household and business premises indoor air purification requirements. Designed and manufactured by Ideal in Balingen, Germany our state-of-the-art devices work on a multi-stage air purification system, which filters almost 100% of pollutants from the air before they reach your lungs.

Mining in South Africa and your health

The adverse effects of mining activity on human health – and the environment at large – is a stark reality that environmentalists, politicians and civil activists alike have been trying to grapple with for years now. Unfortunately, it is a reality we cannot escape.

South Africa – the world’s third largest coal exporter – is also home to a host of other minable minerals, including diamonds, gold, platinum, palladium, chromium, uranium, manganese, ilmenite, zirconium, vanadium, rutile and vermiculite.

Over the past few months there has been a heightened focus on the effects of coal mining, in particular, on human health. In September, UK-based air quality and health expert Dr Mike Holland visited South Africa and uncovered some shocking air quality issues surrounding the country’s coal-mining activities.

According to Holland, air pollution from coal-fired power stations kills more than 2 200 South Africans and causes thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma in adults and children every year. The accumulative monetary damage to the economy – which includes healthcare costs and lost working days – is more than R30-billion a year.

The recent visit follows in-depth research undertaken by Holland last year. Commissioned by local non-profit environmental justice service groundWork, Holland’s findings are contained in a report entitled Health impacts of coal-fired power plants in South Africa.

Shocking figures

These are some of the estimated annual impacts Holland attributes to air pollution from the burning of coal in South Africa:

  • 2 239 deaths – 157 from lung cancer, 1110 from ischaemic heart disease, 73 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 719 from strokes, and 180 from lower respiratory infection
  • 2 781 cases of chronic bronchitis in adults
  • 9 533 cases of bronchitis in children aged 6 to 12
  • 94 680 days of asthma symptoms in children aged 5 to 19
  • 2 379 hospital admissions
  • 3 972 902 restricted activity days (all ages)
  • 996 628 lost working days

On 26 September 2017, the South African Medical Research Council released research findings on Air Quality and Human Health in South Africa that corroborate the gravity of the situation, as laid out in Holland’s reports.

The council report outlines how air pollution plays a direct role in a number of adverse health conditions in adults and children, and points out that the situation is only set to worsen, due to climate change.

The report highlights indoor air as one of the biggest culprits in its report background: “In 2015, 6.4 million deaths (and 167.2 DALYs*) were attributed to air pollution globally. Household air pollution accounted for 2.8 million of these deaths [and] ranked [as the] 7th leading risk factor attributing DALYs globally in 2013.”

Reduce your risk

There is an often-quoted statistic that indicates many adults spend up to 90% of their time indoors, between home and the office.

What’s worse, is that children are now starting to spend more time indoors in South Africa too. Earlier this year, in February, Stats SA’s Victims of Crime survey revealed that most South Africans spend less time in public open spaces or allow their children to play outside for fear of crime.

When you consider that some studies have shown indoor air to be two to five times more polluted than the air outside, it is clear that it is the indoor air that we breathe which should be our first line of attack when it comes to defending our – and our children’s – lungs.

And this goes for office workers, too. According to research conducted by the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, employers can improve workforce performance by up to 10% through improvements in the quality of indoor air.

Air purifiers have been proven to limit the risks of illness caused by airborne pollutants by eliminating the vast majority of airborne substances that are a danger to our health and well-being, and cleaning the air we breathe.

In light of our environmental circumstances, never has it been more crucial than it is today, to ensure air we take into our lungs on a daily basis – both at home and at work – is clean. Invest in your health today, by investing in an air purifier.

For more information on the various Ideal models and features, visit our Air Purifiers web page or call 010 300 4893.

[NOTES]

* The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

[REFERENCES]

  1. Wikipedia – Economy of South Africa
  2. Wikipedia – Mining industry of South Africa
  3. co.za – Effects of Mining on the Environment and Human Health
  4. ee Publishers – Air pollution from coal power stations deadly
  5. Dr Mike Holland – Health impacts of coal-fired power generation in South Africa (PDF)
  6. South African Medical Research Council – Air Quality and Human Health in South Africa (PDF)
  7. Huffington Post – How employee productivity chokes on indoor air
  8. EPA’s report on the Environment – The importance of indoor air quality
  9. Sandton Chronicle – Stats SA – South Africans spend more time indoors because of crime

Hello clean air, goodbye hay fever

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summer allergies

Investing in a good quality air purifier will create a pure-air haven for you and your family, curbing those pesky summer sniffles.

It’s the height of summer, many South Africans’ favourite season and a time when you should be enjoying the radiance and outdoor activities the season brings – but you feel like you’ve been battered with a winter flu stick.

If this sounds like you – runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose – you may be one of the many people who suffers from seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever. This is a type of inflammation in the nose caused by the immune system overreacting to allergens in the air. Although pollen is the primary culprit, other common airborne irritants like pet dander, smoke and dust exacerbate the condition.

According to the Allergy Society of South Africa, up to 20% of South Africans suffer from allergic reactions, with hay fever being rife – especially during change of season. And, although this often overlooked ailment does not come with the same level of notoriety that winter conditions like flu do, it can be just as debilitating.

And it is not only during waking hours that hay fever affects health and performance. According to research, two-thirds of hay fever sufferers continue to experience symptoms while trying to sleep. “[These people] are losing an average of more than an hour of sleep a night as they struggle with streaming noses and itchy eyes,” writes the UK’s Daily Mail.

“An estimated 80 per cent of people with asthma are at increased risk of having an attack because they also suffer from hay fever.”

Now for the good news

But don’t cancel your summer plans just yet – the good news is, there are sure-fire means of managing and mitigating hay fever symptoms considerably. pbOffice, a division of PBSA, offers you one of the most safe and effective of these with its German-made indoor air purification systems by IDEAL.

Studies have shown that people spend around 90% of their time indoors – a figure that is rising, not abating – and indoor air can be up to 100 times dirtier than the air outside. Unlike the outdoors, airborne irritants and bacteria are largely trapped, churning constantly in the indoor air that we spend so much time breathing in.

A good quality air purifier in your home and office environment can trap up to 100% of these summer spoilers, including germs, dust, pet dander, smoke, pollen, mould spores, odours and vapours and various allergens.

Award-winning online information source HowStuffWorks, confirms air purifiers – in particular those that have met the strict regulations and attained HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) certification – can help with allergies.

“No matter how much you clean your home, you cannot rid the air completely of allergens and other airborne irritants. Air purifiers are devices that are designed to clean the air in your house and improve the quality of air you and your family breathe.”

pbOffice’s range of top-quality air purifiers feature all the vital mechanisms that are needed to turn contaminated, harmful indoor air into clean, allergen-free air – including HEPA filters and intelligent air quality sensors.

Our devices work on a multi-stage air purification system, which filters almost 100% of the smallest particles and pathogenic germs from the polluted air before they reach your airway.

Investing in an air purifier for your home and office will allow you to breathe and sleep better, by turning your indoor environment into a safe, clean haven away from the wave of airborne irritants that vex you on a daily basis.

For more information, visit our Air Purifiers web page or call 010 300 4893.