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News & Views from Alchemis

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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or Email Jim Piper or David Newman

Do the EU want to drive free enterprise or shackle British businesses?

EU Data Protection Legislation 2013

In the past 7 days, Cypriot savers have been put through the financial mill, although it seems proposed plans for a tax on savings have been thrown out, but what and where next? In these times of crisis and austerity across Europe it is staggering to think that the European Union would think to implement measures to restrict a company’s trading and generation of new business. However, new rules being proposed by the EU would do just that and, as currently proposed, would also directly impact anyone involved in digital or online marketing.

On 25th January 2012 the European Commission proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU’s 1995 data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe’s digital economy. A lot of this is based around online data and communication as people are giving away vast amounts of personal data online.

However, the impacts on the UK businesses and economy are far reaching, as essentially, the changes will mean it is illegal to send a mailshot, promotional email or make a telemarketing call.

The intentions are good and include a “proposal for a directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities”. Nobody can argue that this is a good thing and as Electric Marketing points out, the proposals are “well intentioned and would protect vulnerable and elderly people from unscrupulous companies”, but also as they point out, currently there is no differentiation made between calling a “vulnerable person” and calling a Marketing Director in a FTSE 100 company.

Clearly a distinction needs to be made between business-to-business and personal marketing, but should this go through as currently proposed the following impacts have been identified by the Direct Marketing Association:

  • Online analytics become impossible as IP tracking is banned
  • Profiling is prohibited without the explicit consent of the consumer
  • Tailored online experiences will need explicit consent
  • Advertising can no longer be targeted to individuals
  • Data can no longer be used to target future marketing activity
  • No email tracking data allowed without explicit consent, making effectiveness almost impossible and unreliable to measure
  • Tailored content will be hard to target and measure
  • Within social media, marketing can no longer be targeted based on profiling
  • Campaigns can only be analysed by the most basic measures
  • Within mobile marketing, profiling information can’t be used to target messaging
  • No tracking data allowed without consent
  • Data will be almost impossible to keep up to date and to do so will be expensive
  • List broking will be severely restricted
  • Legacy data might be required to comply with new regulations
  • Within direct mail and telemarketing, there will be a move from opt out to opt in, so consent is required to call or mail/email a prospect
  • Demographic information will need to be wiped
  • No cold calling to prospective customers

As well as implications for outbound telemarketing calls from an Alchemis perspective, this also restricts email and direct marketing activity regularly carried out on behalf of clients. But the implications for any business with a sales force or outbound marketing plan are potentially huge and for the entire digital marketing community, this must be a real concern.

The reality is I cannot see how this reform can be implemented in its current form as the restriction and impact on UK business would be widespread and hugely damaging. I cannot also see how this can be enforced fully. We subscribe to the expensive Telephone Preference Service (TPS) screening system, which many sales based companies choose to ignore, but to my knowledge, no prosecution has ever come of this.

However, it is on the agenda, so we fully support and back the Electric Marketing campaign for anyone who could be affected by this to write to MEPs, urging them to vote against this reform.

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