DM needs protection from data laws

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Despite David Cameron’s heroic/foolhardy (delete according to ideological hue) decision to exercise Britain’s veto and leave the UK on the sidelines looking on when it comes to matters of the continent’s financial future, we remain very much in the European Union and very much subject to its laws and directives.

This truism is going to be particularly relevant for direct marketers in 2012 who will be faced with two European Union instigated changes that will change the very nature of what they do and how they do it.

It is not the most immediate, the national interpretation of the Privacy Directive that all advertisers employing cookies on their website will have to adhere to come 26 May, that needs flagging up but another that could land a major blow.

Proposed amendments to Data Protection laws are due to be formally unveiled before the end of the first quarter. The contents have not been formally published but a draft document widely leaked at the end of 2012 contained some very worrying proposals that all direct marketers should be aware of.

It is said that European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding wants to see the introduction of a blanket opt in for data use, which would mean that all data would be off limits to brands unless consumers say otherwise. Presently, the UK and others employ an opt-out system that assumes that consumers are happy to have their data used by direct marketers unless they contact the likes of the Mail Preference Service to have their name removed from the data lists that direct marketers and agencies use.

If this requirement remains when the proposals are published later this year, it could cause irrevocable damage to DM.

The majority of customers, handed the responsibility, are unlikely to take the time and energy to opt in. It is not that people will be left wondering why they have haven’t received that email, piece of advertising mail or DM pack and demand that their data is freed for such use, even if they are at best receptive at worst ambivalent.

If the leaked proposals remain intact, direct marketers have plenty to be concerned about. The Direct Marketing Association has led lobbying efforts to date and will remain dogged in stating the industry’s case but it is the government, led by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that holds the most sway.

The coalition needs to be as determined in protecting the future of direct marketing as it was protecting the interests of the City.

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