The Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") is seeking feedback to understand how helpful its current guidance on direct marketing is in practice. This evaluation is open until 18 September 2015.
The current version of the guidance sets out how the rules in the Data Protection Act 1998 ("DPA") and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 ("PECR") control the way organisations can carry out unsolicited direct marketing to individuals and other organisations, including by email, text message, telephone and mail shots. The guidance explains how the rules impact direct marketing activities to consumers and businesses and the type of consents organisations need to obtain to send marketing communications lawfully.
The current guidance was published relatively recently, only two years ago. The regulator's decision to consult with organisations is likely to be driven by a number of factors, including recent press reports in April of consumer pension information and medical details being available for sale and a general increased scrutiny from the public on how their personal information is monetised by businesses.
The regulator is also likely to have one eye on the draft General Data Protection Regulation currently being negotiated in Europe and how it will impact businesses in practice. The proposed changes to how organisations should obtain consent from consumers are particularly relevant here and will affect how organisations obtain recipients' consent to send them marketing materials by email. This will be particularly important where details have been bought from third parties on marketing lists.
PECR compliance is increasingly important as legal changes this year removed the need to show 'serious harm' before a fine of up to £0.5 million can be imposed for breach. This is a complex area where clear guidance is required and, as such, the ICO's consultation will be welcomed by businesses trying to balance compliance with the law against making consumers aware of new offers and opportunities by simple, attractive means.