February 27, 2015

Ready for the EU Data Protection Reform?

There will soon be dramatic revisions to the EU data protection law. Marketers will have even greater pressure to ensure and prove that their contacts have consented to being sent marketing emails unambiguously after explicitly being told what their data will be used for.

The UK data protection governing body, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), expects the law to be enacted in 2017.

Whilst this might seem far away, it is better to start preparing now rather than at the last minute – particularly as the law could affect the use of current data. Businesses who fail to comply could face fines of 100 million Euro or 5% of your annual income (whichever is largest).

Ambiguous laws will become clearer and stricter

Certain laws are clearly written and therefore easy to implement in email marketing; for instance providing contacts with ‘the right to opt out’ is as simple as including a working unsubscribe link. However, other laws are ambiguous, such as the ‘soft opt-in’ which governs the sending of marketing emails to contacts whose details have been obtained in the course of a sale (or negotiations of a sale).

The ICO direct marketing handbook states:

“The customer does not actually have to have bought anything to trigger the soft opt-in. It is enough if ‘negotations for a sale’ took place”.

In an example, they write:

“if the customer completes an online enquiry form asking for more details about a product or a range of products, this could be enough”.

This could be enough? But is it? If the ICO can’t give a firm yes or no answer, how do marketers decide? Many take risks and step into blurred territory, and many succeed – but for those that not, the consequences are substantial – as the John Lewis case demonstrates.

The revised law will clarify these ambiguities in favour of making data protection laws even stricter. If respected organisations such as John Lewis are getting fined under the current cloudy, unclear laws, how much more careful will marketers have to be in the future? ‘Better safe than sorry’ isn’t strong enough, the only way to adequately prepare is to take no risks at all, particularly as the revision will give individuals easy access to make compensation claims.

Third party lists will be a thing of the past

The revisions will make it incredibly difficult for not only the buyers of third party data, but the organisations who sell the data themselves. Those who make use of third party data will need to start reviewing the sources of their data now to ensure that they have proof of opt-in for every single contact. Inevitably, many organisations will find this a struggle, as anyone who has bought a list from a vendor before, will know how difficult it can be to get a comprehensible answer regarding how their data is sourced, which is dubious in itself. So, does this spell the end of marketing to new prospects? Absolutely not, there are better ways to gather data which will be fully compliant with the law and which will result in a more targeted list.

The solution – Collect opted-in data, organically

The solution is going to be finding a way of organically growing your data list. While this will likely be a lot slower it will also provide a higher quality of list. Social media is a great way to do this, using offers or competitions as incentives to entice people to give you their contact information is a great way of legally growing your database. Just ensure that it’s explicitly stated when people submit their information what they are signing up for. Twitter now even offers a direct way of collecting data called “lead generation cards” – in one click users can submit their email address in return for some form of incentive.

Email Ladder is part of One2One Digital, a full service digital marketing agency. Our experienced staff can help you generate new leads via social media as we have done for many of our existing clients.

Contact us today

020 7870 2000

Legal Disclaimer: This blog entry serves as a general guide to the upcoming changes in EU Data Protection law and does not constitute legal advice. Email Ladder does not accept any liability regarding the accuracy of the information found within.


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