The Government has come good on its pledge to give the Information Commissioner’s Office extra powers to haul those who flout its direct marketing guidance through the courts by revealing it will be put on a statutory footing.
The measure was first mooted by Baroness Neville Rolfe at a DMA Data Protection Conference last year and was also included in the Queen’s Speech, although details were sketchy at best.
At the moment, the ICO has the power to fine companies up to £500,000 for breaches of the law but its direct marketing guidance is not enforceable in the courts.
Now Baroness Buscombe, the former chief executive of the Advertising Association, has told the House of Lords Committee on the Digital Economy Bill that making new DM guidance statutory law will boost action against those who breach the Data Protection Act and the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR).
She was speaking in response to an amendment to the Bill, proposed by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who is also chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum.
Arguing that confusion over online opt-ins had triggered the rise in so-called “suckers lists”, Baroness Finlay called for online retailers to be fined 10% of operating profit for breaking the laws.
However, Buscombe pointed out that this will be covered by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due to come into force in May 2018. She said: “Although I accept the spirit of the amendment, I do not believe it is necessary. Clause 77 already places a statutory duty on the Information Commissioner to publish a direct marketing code of practice.
“Putting the ICO’s direct marketing code of practice on a statutory footing will make it easier for the Information Commissioner to take enforcement action against those organisations in breach of the direct marketing rules.”
With the exception of the need to update consent every year, the other amendments to the Bill were withdrawn. It now moves onto the report stage of the House of Lords.
“It is important that any direct marketing regulation has the law fully behind it,” said Verso Group operations and compliance director Dene Walsh. “It is essential that the public has as much confidence in the processes involved in direct marketing as possible, and the only way to do that is to enforce rules against rogues to the greatest extent.”
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