The UK government has published the Digital Economy Bill, which – among other things - aims to protect citizens from spam email and nuisance calls. If adopted, the Bill will amend the Data Protection Act 1998 to require the Information Commissioner to produce a direct marketing code of practice. Direct marketers will have to follow the code and this will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take more effective action and impose fines.

ICO currently produces Direct Marketing Guidance, which gives organisations guidance on the DPA and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. But the guidance is non-statutory and neither the DPA nor PECR imposes an obligation on organisations to follow the guidance, or provides any sanction for failing to comply.

The Code is likely to be the same as (or very similar to) the existing guidance, but the Bill requires the Information Commissioner to consult on the Code as she considers appropriate.

The Bill doesn’t contain any further provisions relating to direct marketing beyond the Code. There had been speculation that the Bill would impose new obligations on consent to direct marketing beyond what’s already in PECR (this issue is currently being reviewed at the EU level).

The Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 5 July 2016, but there’s no date set for the second reading. It will be some time before the Bill becomes law and it’s likely to change during its passage through Parliament.