OPINION: Marketing Society - EU Directive on 'Digital Privacy' Is Positive Step

Marketing, June 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

OPINION: Marketing Society - EU Directive on 'Digital Privacy' Is Positive Step


The DTI's consultation paper on the EU's Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication is generating relief and uncertainty within the industry.

On the one hand, it's welcomed - but on the other, it's causing a mixture of panic and confusion among those who believe it will effectively make SMS marketing illegal. So what impact will the legislation have? Will it prohibit the majority of mobile campaigns in the future?

The Directive, likely to become UK law by October, calls for electronic communication to be on an opt-in basis. This stands in contrast with existing laws for direct mail, which can be sent on an opt-out basis. The Directive makes one exception: where there is an 'existing customer relationship', communication can be sent regarding similar products or services, using opt-out, instead of opt-in. The difference between the two is opt-in consumers are required to 'tick the box', whereas opt-out means consumers un-tick the box to not be part of the service.

The Directive's impact will be positive on the whole. It will not spell the end of mobile marketing campaigns. But it will prohibit bad practice, such as sending out blanket text messages to large databases of numbers, where no opt-in is acquired. Brands will be able to continue to incentivise responses and engage an audience via mobile. Brands can continue to collect data on customers, as long as consumers have given explicit consent.

Another likely effect is greater scrutiny of opt-in mobile databases.

The internet spawned the practice of acquiring dubious lists by tricking users into un-ticking the box if they didn't want to receive any further information, as opposed to consciously ticking it. …

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