The UK direct marketing industry has been left reeling after MEPs voted by an overwhelming majority to pass the less business-friendly version of the EU Data Protection Regulation.
The move, which is a major body blow to the DMA-led fight against tougher regulation, saw 621 MEPs vote in favour, 10 against, and 22 abstentions.
Although by no means a done-deal – the Council of Ministers does not agree with the European Parliament’s position and is pushing for a more business-friendly regulation – it has been described as the “Doomsday scenario for DM”.
Under the reforms voted in, businesses will have to gain explicit consent from consumers before processing their data – creating an opt-in regime for marketing.
One industry insider said: “This could be the end for many businesses operating in the industry. There had always been suspicions that Viviane Reding [the justice commissioner] would get her way, despite denying she wanted all marketing to be opt-in. Interpretation of the law is still up in the air, but this really is the ‘Doomsday scenario’.”
The “right to be forgotten”, allowing consumers to delete their data from companies’ computer systems, and a “right to data portability”, making it easier for people to transfer their personal data between service providers have also been sanctioned. Companies that abuse customers’ data could be fined of up to 5% of their global turnover.
MEPs also waved through plans for a “one-stop shop” for data protection, meaning businesses would answer to just one data protection authority – the one based in the country of their main establishment – instead of each authority in every EU country in which they operate.
Chris Combemale, executive director of the DMA, commented: “We’ve been leading the industry’s campaign for a fair and balanced data legislation, so it’s extremely disappointing that the European Parliament has voted for a less business-friendly version of the proposed Regulation.
“While this is by no means a done-deal, this vote should be ringing alarm bells in the board room of every business that’s involved with one-to-one communications.
“For its part, the DMA will continue to lead the industry’s push for a more business-friendly version of the Regulation. Whatever the outcome, however, one thing is certain: brands will soon have to work harder than ever before to communicate one-to-one with consumers and must offer compelling reasons to become engaged and to share their personal information. Only the companies who get to grips with how the data protection landscape is changing will be successful in the future.”
However, the reforms cannot get through unless both the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers, which is made up of representatives of individual member states, both agree on a single set of proposals. The UK Coalition Government has already said it will fight to the bitter end to ensure British businesses are not adversely affected by the new laws.
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