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EU Data protection regulation and B2B Marketing

July 30, 2015

The first Data Protection Directive was written in 1995 and alot has changed since then.  The new European Data Protection Regulation has been under construction for the past couple of years and is intended to standardise data protection laws across all EU members. So what is the difference between a directive and a regulation ? A directive is implemented and enforced by individual countries but regulations become law without change when they are passed.

In June 2015 the member states of the European Union made good progress in agreeing the new regulations but alot of work is still to be done.


Agreement between the European Parliament, Council of Ministers and European Commission still has to be reached on a number of points but it could be possible by  November/December 2015.  This would mean the regulation would become law before the end of the year. There is however a two-year transition period before penalities are enforced to allow people to get their houses in order.

Although we don't know the final details of the regulation there are some things that have already been agreed that will have a big impact on B2B marketing.

1. Opt in only

In the current Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) all company addresses are considered to be "opt out".  This means you can send an email to a company address without permission provided you include an option to unsubscribe.

In the new regulation this won't be the case.  There is no distinction made between personal or business addresses.   If the  information relates to an individual or identifies an individual then you will need consent to send a marketing email. So an email address that identifies a person such as [email protected] will need consent but [email protected] would not. It will be up to the sender to prove that consent was given.

2. Implied/Soft opt in is out

Under the current regulations you can email an existing customer providing you gave them the opportunity to opt out at the time of purchase. This is called implied consent or soft opt in.

Under the new regulation this has been removed as all consent must be explicit. This means that you must be able to prove that the customer agreed to receive the emails.

3. Right to be forgotten

Everybody will have the right for to be forgotten. No longer can you mark the contact as "do not contact" in your CRM database. All the personal details would have to be deleted. The specifics of how this works as regards unsubscribes are yet to be detailed  but in theory you could use a hash of the email address for unsubscribes. This way you don't story the personal data but simply a hash to match against an email address.

The finer details of the regulation are still to be agreed but in essence it means to send a direct marketing email to anyone you will need to have their consent first. And you will have to prove that consent was given and when. It will be at least 2 years before this is enforced but if your sales cycle is 12 months i.e. an insurance policy then it is possibly two renewals before you need consent so you should look to change processes now.

One of the big challenges will be the company CRM and the data therein. Many email addresses are collected during the course of business and added to the CRM as a matter of course. Currently much of this data then gets used by marketing for newsletters and promotions. Going forward you would have to prove that each person was asked if they would like to receive marketing emails and the date they said yes. This consent would also not be forever. You would need a process of re-aquiring this consent every 6 months or so.

It is clear that the new regulation will pose a number of challenges for the B2B marketer but starting to plan for the changes now will provide for a smoother transition.

Posted by Simon Hill
General, Topical email

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