What marketers can expect from lawmakers in 2015

If there’s one thing that all political commentators can be certain of when analysing the likely political landscape in 2015 – there is little to be unequivocal about.

Neither of the two main contenders to form a majority Government when the nation goes to the polls in May, the Conservative and Labour parties, are currently anyway near pulling the polling numbers necessary to start preparing for power.

Coalition or minority Government looks favourite with both requiring compromise and with compromise, comes uncertainty.

Against this backdrop, parties are prone to look for votes wherever they can find them and however they can find them. Marketing is often seen as an easy target with calls for ad bans or greater restrictions often spat out or hinted at without proper consideration of consequence or the trifling matter of evidence in the stretch to shore up a block of votes.

Food and drink, gambling, payday loans and alcohol advertising are always vulnerable and especially so in this age of uncertainty. The trade associations charged with looking out for the interests of the media and marketing industries will be waiting with a degree of anxiety for manifesto season in the spring for any sense of a clampdown.

There is much we don’t know but there’s plenty elsewhere that marketers operating in several different sectors can expect in 2015.

Data, direct and online

What: Another draft of the European Union’s Data Protection Regulation is expected by the summer ahead of a further round of negotiations between the Council, Commission and Parliament. It is conceivable approval could be achieved by the year’s end ahead of implementation by all member states within two years.

Why it matters: The requirements of marketers are wide-ranging but the chief among them – the need to receive explicit consent from consumers before data is used for marketing – would require a fundamental change in approach.

What: It is expected the E-Privacy Directive Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger will begin his review of the E-Privacy Directive, better known as the ‘cookie directive’, towards the latter part of the year or when there is a conclusion to discussions on the data protection regulation.

Why it matters: The directive, which concerns the processing of personal data by brands, caused great consternation when introduced in 2012 and required websites to gain consent to use cookies. Any advance will be closely scrutinised.

What: The UK Government is currently considering what its response should be to a report by the ‘Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force’, led by Which? but manned by several bodies including the DMA and Information Commissioner’s Office. Any changes stemming from the recommendations will be made in the New Year.

Why it matters: The December report called on the Government to review the way marketers use consent for direct marketing. The report demanded companies keep a “record of consent” and allow people to “easily revoke” consent. Companies should have to seek fresh consent after a minimum period of six months, it added.

Financial

What: Consumer credit regulator the Financial Conduct Authority will likely propose changes to how banks and building societies use social media for marketing in the first quarter following a consultation earlier this year.

Why it matters: In guidance issued when launching the consultation, the Financial Conduct Authority says firms should adopt a “media neutral” approach to ensure their customers are “presented with certain minimum information”.

The banks, insurers and investment firms it regulates should therefore consider “the appropriateness of character-limited media as a means of promoting complex features of financial products and services”, the FCA added. Prohibition is unlikely but a firm line on use is expected.

Food and drink

What: The Health Select Committee will begin receiving oral evidence in the first quarter for its enquiry into the impact of diet and physical activity on health. The influence of marketing on children and its role in excessive consumption could be discussed.

Why it matters: Vote hungry politicians could pick up any findings critical of advertising in an election year. However, it is also an opportunity to make the case for the impact of Government-led marketing initiatives such as Change4Life on reducing consumption of food and drink high in sugar, salt or fat.

Gambling

What: There is a sense that the scrutiny gambling advertising has been under in the past year will not abate with some in the industry fearful that either Labour or the Conservative Party could float the banning of TV ads by gambling firms pre-watershed. To avoid defeat on its Gambling Bill in the House of Lords earlier this year the Government prompted a review of the content and scheduling of ads. The Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice have since reported there is little wrong with the current rules but the threat remains.

Why it matters: Gambling firms advertising before and during coverage of football matches on TV would be denied a valuable opportunity to reach a huge audience.

Consumer

What: The Consumer Rights Bill sets out a framework that consolidates in one place consumer rights covering contracts for products and services, digital content and the law on unfair terms in consumer contracts. It is expected to be rubber stamped by both Houses before the election and be made law by the year’s end.

Why it matters: The changes represent what the Government describes as “the biggest overhaul of consumer law for decades”. It means Trading Standards can operate over local authority boundaries, and gives enforcers greater scope to prosecute consumer law breakers. It will, according to the Government, make it easier for consumers and small to medium sized businesses to challenge anti-competitive behaviour through the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

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