Data laws ‘too prescriptive’, say MPs

The marketing industry has welcomed the conclusion of an influential group of MPs that proposed European-wide data protection laws are “too prescriptive”.


The Justice Select Committee was responding to European Union measures first announced in January that would require brands to gain explicit consent from consumers to use their personal data for campaigns.

The report published today (1 November) rejects many of the proposals, adding European Union lawmakers need to “go back to the drawing board” and develop laws that “allow for flexibility or discretion for businesses or other organisations which hold personal data…” Updating current data protection laws, first introduced in 1995, reflects the growth in digital media and addresses growing concern over data privacy, the EU argues.

Committee chair Sir Alan Beith MP, adds: “The current data protection laws for general and commercial purposes need to be updated, as they do not account for the digital world. However, we agree with the Information Commissioner’s assessment that the system set out in the draft regulation ‘cannot work’ and is ‘a regime which no-one will pay for.”

Industry bodies have been lobbying for changes to the proposals, which require “affirmative action” on the part of the consumer before brands can process data of any kind, arguing they will stifle growth in direct and digital marketing. Of great concern is the reforms will be imposed uniformly in a bid “do away with the current fragmentation” rather than customised by each member states. The European Union’s are implemented differently in member states

Caroline Roberts, director of public affairs for the DMA, says its members will be “pleased” the Committee shares its concerns.

“We hope that EU lawmakers go back to the drawing board and create regulation that strikes the right balance in protecting the data privacy rights of individuals when sharing their information with businesses,” she adds.

The industry has the backing of the Government, which has promised to lobby for changes in Brussels. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice says: “The Ministry of Justice welcomes the findings in the report that the proposed EU data protection legislation is too prescriptive. We are pushing for a legislation that is less burdensome – providing protection without stifling growth and innovation.”

Ian Twinn, ISBA’s director of public affairs, adds the industry also needs to focus lobbying efforts on Brussels.

“It’s great we have MPs and ministers on side but the measures will go ahead in some form as we are just one of 27 member states.”

The Advertising Association and IAB also backed the Committee’s conclusions.

The Justice Committee report did, however, concede some of EU proposals had merit. “For individuals, their rights would be strengthened, and in particular the new framework would guard against some of the more unwelcome and often criticised aspects of digital data processing,” the report says.

It will be at least until 2014 before any changes to UK law. Final regulation will take effect two years after being adopted.

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