The Digital Economy Act 2017 (the "Act") received royal assent in April 2017 and is now an Act of Parliament. The Act covers a range of topics, but of particular note to commercial entities is Section 96 of the Act which enhances the regulation of direct marketing and which will come into effect on 28 June 2017.
The aim of Section 96 is to better protect citizens against spam calls, texts and emails, and will require the Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") to create a new code of practice regulating direct marketing.
The ICO's current guidance explains the direct marketing laws under the Data Protection Act 1998 ("DPA") and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 ("PECR"), guides organisations on how they can stay within the law and maintain a good reputation with customers, and sets out what enforcement action the ICO can take against those who breach the rules. This guidance will soon be superseded by the new code which, unlike the ICO's current guidance, will have statutory weight.
The new code will contain practical guidance for organisations on how to responsibly engage in direct marketing in compliance with the Act, the DPA, the PECR, and any such other guidance as the Commissioner considers appropriate to promote good practice having regard to the interests of data subjects in particular.
Whilst breach of the new code will not in itself be an offence, non-compliance will be admissible in evidence in any proceedings and where relevant must be taken into consideration by the Commissioner or a court or tribunal. The new code will therefore strengthen the ICO's ability to enforce direct marketing laws and take action against entities which cause a direct marketing nuisance to consumers.