GDPR three months on: Most consumers feel no better off

GDPR was designed to give consumers more control over their personal data, but three months after its introduction most don’t feel any better off.

It’s now three months since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect and while consumers feel they have a better understanding of how companies are using their data most have seen no change to the overall experience they have with brands, according to new research commissioned by Marketing Week.

The survey of more than 1,000 consumers, which was conducted by Toluna, shows 57% of people feel they have a better understanding of how companies are using their personal data since GDPR was enforced on 25 May.

However, despite brands’ best efforts, just 27% of consumers believe their overall experience with brands is better. Most people (65%) believe GDPR has made no difference at all, while 8% suggest things have actually got worse.

More than third of consumers (36%) also believe companies have used their personal data without their consent since the introduction of GDPR, such as by sending them emails they’ve not signed up for.

READ MORE: Ben Davis – GDPR is here and, yes, user experience is still broken


While no business has been found in breach of the new law yet, given the fines associated with ignoring the regulation it’s concerning that a fifth of respondents (21%) believe they have seen companies acting illegally.

This should ring alarm bells for brands that either don’t fully understand the regulation or are choosing to ignore it, as the overwhelming majority of consumers (90%) that think they’ve witnessed brands acting unlawfully now trust these brands less, with half suggesting they will no longer buy products and services from that company as a result.

Given 54% of respondents say they’re not sure whether they’ve seen any companies breaching the regulation, its suggests consumers are still not entirely clear about their rights, despite the fact 92% are aware of GDPR. The Information Commissioner’s Office was criticised in the run up to 25 May for not doing enough to inform consumers about their data rights ahead of GDPR coming into force.

READ MORE: Harry Lang – Where’s the GDPR campaign to tell consumers about their data rights?

On a more positive note, just over half (51%) of respondents believe it is easier to tell companies how they want their data to be used, whether that’s by opting out of emails or changing cookie settings, compared to just 13% who find it harder following the introduction of GDPR.

Looking at specific channels, it’s encouraging to see that 41% of consumers have seen an improvement in the way brands communicate with them via email following the introduction of GDPR, but most (52%) have seen no change.

Similarly, while a quarter of consumers have seen an improvement on websites where they’ve given brands permission to use cookies to track them, 18% believe it has actually made those sites worse to use. But half of respondents (53%) say it has made no difference to their experience at all.