We’ve been lobbying against the proposed new EU data protection legislation for getting on for two years now.
Earlier in 2014 the EU Parliament agreed a piece of draconian legislation that would outlaw list broking, insist on written consent for all marketing communications sent to a named person, with no distinction between b2b and b2c, and effectively finish off personalised marketing to anyone other than your recent customers. If that legislation were enacted it would mean the end of direct marketing as we know it. We will return to the days of writing to Dear Marketing Manager or Dear Stationery Buyer.
Following this vote there have been some alarmist blogs placed on the DMA's website which have stirred the small business community into panic. Here's one from June
However the reality is that the EU is still debating what form the legislation will take and what that legislation will be. The European Parliament has voted for this legislation but that does not mean that it will become law.
The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have now all drafted three different versions of the proposed data protection regulation. The European Parliament draft is by far the most damaging for anyone who uses mailing or email lists to prospect for new customers. The three bodies will enter into negotiations as to which elements of each version will become EU law.
There are two types of EU legislation;
1. EU Regulation which obliges all countries to enact the legislation without amendment
2. EU Directive which has to be debated and passed through the UK Parliament at Westminster and to which amendments can be made.
The current UK Government is pushing for the laws to become a Directive, which will give UK MPs some leeway to alter the legislation as it applies to the UK.
It should be borne in mind that the UK amended the last similar piece of EU legislation (a Directive) with the Electronic Communications Act specifically allowing the sending of B2B emails in the UK without the sender first obtaining consent.
The UK coalition government opposes the proposals and is lobbying for them to be a Directive at the very worst. Unfortunately the Labour party is currently in favour of the proposals and has not replied to any of our letters on the subject.
As things stand we have at least two years until the law is changed.
If your company buys in data to use to prospect for new customers, please write to your MP, explaining what the proposed legislation will mean for you. Also write to Simon Hughes MP who is in charge of the UK negotiation with the EU. The more letters MPs receive, the more attention will be paid to the issue and it becomes less likely that the UK sleepwalks into agreeing to legislation that is damaging for business.
The time to write to your MEP has passed as the vote has happened and most UK MEPs (bar UKIP) voted in favour of the new draconian data laws. But it is always worth explaining to an MEP the consequences of their vote and the effect it will have on your business, our industry and the wider economy.