Marketers are being urged to be proactive in helping to shape new legislation on direct, data and digital activity – included in the Digital Economy Bill – which, it is claimed, could have far greater influence on the UK sector than even the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Parliament has already approved the first reading of the Bill, a move which will lead to the Information Commissioner’s Office preparing a code of practice on direct marketing with a clear instruction that relevant parties from within the DM industry must be consulted.
In addition, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the Minister of State at the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy, has called for contributions in shaping the future of regulation by declaring that she is “very much in listening mode”.
The minister has already stated there can be no way of knowing whether or not GDPR is likely to apply to the UK until trade negotiations with the EU begin, although many experts expect the UK to adopt GDPR or at least its own version of the legislation.
But given that the Government has not yet decided its timetable to establish its bargaining position, everything is still up in the air.
Verso Group operations and compliance director Dene Walsh said: “What is certain is that with the Digital Economy Bill being sponsored by government itself, is written into the Queen’s Speech, and is likely to come into law far more quickly than the conclusion of trade talks relating to data regulation, with the additional possibility of the Information Commissioner deciding new direct marketing rules before negotiators have finished their job.
“In the immediate and medium term the only thing certain is uncertainty, and it is this atmosphere that presents an ideal opportunity for all parties to review all regulation to take into account the interests of both business and members of the public.”
Walsh maintains that the review should include all elements of commercial communication and data relating to members of the public, including the Telephone Preference Service. He added: “After 20 years, the TPS is showing increasing signs that it past its sell-by date. Half its files are dead and it has far more registrations than there are active telephone numbers in the UK. More important, it is not effective in stopping increasing public concern about ‘nuisance’ calls. A more effective system needs to be considered.”
Walsh maintains that now is the time for an open review to create regulation for the next decade that protects the public, and lays down unambiguous rules that allow companies to operate within clearly defined parameters. “Incorporating all regulation into the review, including that of the TPS, MOJ and ASA provides a unique opportunity to establish rules that do not overlap and contradict each other. Clashes of rules currently put companies in an unfair situation in which they have to decide which rules to break based on which regulatory authority is likely to hand out the least severe punishment,” Walsh added.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create joined up rules that are understood and work for everyone, including members of the public. The alternative is to go on as we are muddling through with multiple sets of rules that overlap leaving nobody satisfied and always with the possibility of future short-term change.”
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