Proposed EU Regulation on Data Protection will affect all businesses using mailing or email lists to prospect for new customers

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
http://www.dma.org.uk/article/eu-data-protection-reform-what-you-need-to-know

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.

Update on the proposed EU Data Protection Legislation – March 2014

The European Parliament has voted to adopt the less business-friendly version of the Data Protection Regulation, proposed by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) in the November 2013 report.

Update on the proposed EU Data Protection Legislation – February 2014

The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have now all drafted different versions of the proposed data protection regulation.

Europe’s Justice and Home Affairs ministers failed to reach an agreement on the draft legislation at their Council meeting in December 2013.

The Greek government has taken the chair of the Presidency of the EU Council and hopes to thrash out an agreement on the wording of the new legislation by summer 2014. If this happens it is possible that the new regulations could be agreed in 2014 and become law in 2017.

What impact will these changes have on your business? See http://www.electricmarketing.co.uk/EUdata.html

Responses to our concerns about the proposed EU Data Protection Legislation

We wrote to a variety of MEPs, MPs, government ministers, other politicians and business organisations.

Here are summaries of their responses:

Charles Tannock MEP, Conservative – no response yet

Claude Moraes MEP, Labour – no response yet

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Liberal Democrat – I am seeking to create an instrument with standards that are workable, realistic and enforceable by being user-friendly for citizens, allowing reasonable business to proceed, focused on outcomes rather than on process and tick-box exercise, and tough in sanctions on companies which practise deception or otherwise cheat the customer.

Dr Syed Kamall MEP, Conservative – The regulations must protect the privacy of citizens without putting too much of a burden on small and medium sized businesses. There is still a long way to go but we are optimistic a good result can be achieved.

Gerard Batten MEP, UK Independence Party – All legislation affecting citizens of the UK should be made at Westminster. I will therefore be voting against these regulations.

Jean Lambert MEP, Green – no response yet

Mary Honeyball MEP, Labour – I do not sit on the committees considering this matter. [BUT SHE DOES GET TO VOTE ON IT]

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, Conservative – The regulations must protect the privacy of citizens without putting too much of a burden on small and medium sized businesses. There is still a long way to go but we are optimistic a good result can be achieved.

David Cameron, Prime MinisterIt’s the responsibility of the Business Secretary, so I’ve passed your letter to Vince Cable.

Vince Cable, Business SecretaryLetter passed to the Ministry of Justice.

Lord McNally, Justice Minister, Liberal Democrat – We want to protect the civil liberties of individuals while allowing for economic growth and innovation. The UK benefits of the proposals are outweighed by the costs of additional administrative and compliance measures they introduce. The regulations in their current form could have a net cost to the UK economy of £100m-£360m per annum. The Government’s position is to negotiate for EU legislation that does not impose disproportionate burdens on business, including the direct marketing industry.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the OppositionYour comments have been noted.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of LondonI have no input to this. Try writing to the Direct Marketing Association.

Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretaryno response yet

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister – no response yet

Institute of Directors – We are working on forming a policy position around the incoming legislation.

Federation of Small Businesses – We agree that the new rules will have a devastating effect on the direct marketing industry and are working hard to have them changed.

EU Data Protection Legislation

You may have heard that the European Union is planning sweeping changes to data protection laws. What you may not have realised is the impact these changes will have on your business.

As the proposals currently stand it will become illegal to

  • send a mailshot
  • send a promotional email
  • make a telemarketing call

to any named individual either at home or at work without first obtaining their explicit consent.

Quite simply it will mean the end of targeted direct marketing in the UK.

These proposals are probably well intentioned. It is likely that tougher data protection laws would protect vulnerable and elderly people from unscrupulous companies. But the proposals make no distinction between a company phoning an 84-year-old widow in her home and a company writing to the marketing director of British Gas at the company’s head office.

How can we stop this happening?
The best course of action is to write to our MEPs. Before becoming law the new data protection proposals have to be approved by the European Parliament. Each region of the UK has several MEPs. The contact details of these MEPs can be seen here: http://www.europarl.org.uk/view/en/your_MEPs/List-MEPs-by-region.html

All that’s needed is a brief letter or email to each of the MEPs that represents your region describing what your company does, how many people it employs and the impact this legislation would have upon you.

What we think
Electric Marketing’s view is that the proposals should make a distinction between business-to-business marketing and consumer marketing. We believe that the current opt-out system works perfectly well for the business-to-business arena and that a switch to an opt-in regime would severely limit the ability of small companies to promote their goods and services to larger businesses. It is anti-competitive and would lead to the failure of many potentially successful start-up businesses.

Whatever your view NOW is the time to make it known by writing to your MEP.

More details of the EU’s proposals can be seen on the Direct Marketing Association’s website: http://dma.org.uk/eu-data-protection/the-proposals-at-a-glance

If you’d like to contact me about this please send an email to robert@electricmarketing.co.uk

Robert Bingham
Director
Electric Marketing Ltd
March 2013