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Data protection 2013: a crucial point for marketers

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The UK direct marketing industry has reached a crucial window of opportunity to argue its case against the draft EU Data Protection Regulation, said DMA executive director, Chris Combemale. Speaking at Data Protection 2013 on Friday 8 February, Combemale called on brands and agencies to ensure their voice is heard in Brussels by lobbying UK members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

To help them the DMA has launched an online data protection toolkit, which includes a guide on how to lobby UK MPs and MEPs. It is the marketing industry’s first comprehensive guide on the proposed data protection reform, with details on the proposals and how they could impact your business.

Information Commissioner calls for businesses to lobby MEPs
The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, also urged business leaders to engage further with legislators in Brussels over the draft Regulation, during his keynote address at Data Protection 2013.

“The direct marketing industry has an important role to play in the legislative process,” he said. “It must focus on good practice and respect consumers. It must also remember that this is the crucial turning point in a long game; while there is a lot more work to do on the Regulation, the industry must engage further with legislators now.”

Graham also said that any lobbying in Brussels over the reform of the data protection legislative framework must involve support for sensible rules. He said that an attitude of compliance rather than defiance was needed and that a calmer and informed approach to lobbying is more likely to change minds.

ICO sees data reform proposals as unbalanced and over-prescriptive
Graham repeated the view of his office, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that the current proposals for reform are unbalanced, unhelpful, intrusive and over-prescriptive “a fetish of process”. In the view of the ICO, the proposals should instead focus on how industry and the regulators can address real risks to privacy rights and promote good practice.

ICO calls for balanced regulation that punishes non-compliance
Graham also said that the ICO believed in balanced and appropriate regulation that enabled organisations which complied with the law to flourish while those who didn’t would face enforcement action. He stressed that organisations must accept that there was a need for data protection rules and that they needed to comply with such rules.

More fines in the pipeline for rogue marketers
Graham was pleased to note that the ICO works with the DMA (UK) and The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to make regulation effective and gave the example of the civil monetary penalty notices totalling £440,000 which the ICO issued in November 2012 on two owners of a marketing company which had plagued the public with millions of unlawful spam texts over the past three years. He confirmed that more civil monetary penalty notices are in the pipeline. He also warned that breaches of the rules on automated recorded marketing messages and making unrequested marketing calls to people registered on the TPS was a toxic issue for MPs at Westminster as constituents were complaining to them about these types of calls.

Round-up of other conference sessions
Caroline Roberts from the DMA (UK) and Mathilde Fiquet from FEDMA gave an update on the current position with regard to the draft Data Protection Regulation, which we cover in MEPs’ data protection proposals a threat to direct marketing and EU Ministers and UK Government wary of draft EU data reform.

Other highlights from the conference include Richard Beaumont from the Cookie Collective LLP, who looked at how the current text of the draft Regulation might affect the direct marketing industry in the future. And, David Coplin from Microsoft UK explained what technology could do to help us in a truly web-enabled world.

James Milligan, DMA Solicitor, 020 7291 3360.

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