European Postal Operators Raise Concerns on the New Data Protection Rules
In light of the recent amendments to the proposed new Data Protection rules, some major concerns were raised by European Postal Data Protection regulatory experts, particularly in the area of the definition of personal data, legitimate interests as a legal basis for data treatment and limitations on customer profiling. Postal experts are convinced that unless these issues are soon addressed, some of the new set of proposed amendments will ultimately threaten the postal business, its network, as well as affect customers who have come to rely on the postal network.
PostEurop and its Members of established European postal operators have raised concerns that the latest proposal for amendments made on 8 January 2013 to the EU proposals on consumer data protection reforms, may have a major impact on the citizen’s privacy, European economy and postal operator’s activities.
In principal, postal operators appreciate the initiative taken to apply a more uniform regulation for the protection of personal data at a European level, in order to strengthen individual rights while tackling the challenges of globalisation and new technologies. PostEurop approves the principle of “technological neutrality” that enables the regulation to set up fundamental principles to protect the personal data of European citizens. But PostEurop wishes to underline that the usage and risks differ greatly between print and electronic media and in some cases, applying the same rules may lead to inconsistencies making it impossible to undertake effective Direct Mail campaigns.
According to PostEurop experts, the amendments to clauses - mainly those regarding the definition of personal data, legitimate interests as a legal basis for data treatment and limitations on customer profiling - will seriously affect the mail activity of the postal sector. As it stands, the postal sector is already struggling with declining mail volumes. Customers including small and medium size companies, the press sector and mail ordering will be dramatically affected too as they will be deprived of one the most popular way of prospecting. Hence, postal operators would like to draw the attention of the stakeholders to the following points.
A Balanced Approach
Direct Mail is a proven, trusted, affordable and effective way for businesses to communicate directly with their customers. Surveys shows that the Direct Mail is the most appreciated advertising media by consumers. Many businesses including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) rely heavily on Direct Mail due to its affordability and ability to build customer loyalty as well as attract potential new customers. The current regulation in place for treatment of personal data for reasons of Direct Mail already provides a balanced approach for both consumers and businesses. Thus, ensuring continued growth of products and services to suit consumer needs.
Maintaining a Trusted Network for Growth
For centuries, European Postal Operators have built a valuable and trusted network reaching out to all citizens. The Direct Marketing business has made it possible for postal operators to help businesses and in turn contribute to maintaining a Universal Service Obligation for all. This further ensures that each European citizen has access to postal services through the network. The proposed new regulation must take into consideration the citizen’s right in this respect.
Commenting on the European Parliament’s draft report, Jean-Paul Forceville, Chairman of the PostEurop Management Board, said: “Whilst we appreciate the initiative to apply data protection rules in a consistent way, we feel that the proposed draft of the regulation poses a serious threat to European Postal Operators and the very core of our Universal Service Obligation to citizens, and not to mention the viability of businesses that depend on direct marketing to drive their business leading to more service and product offering for consumers. The proposed legislation will inevitably create unnecessary problems for growth prospects around E-Commerce and many businesses.”
PostEurop therefore continues to urge that Members of the Parliament voting on this proposal will strongly take into consideration the points raised and take the necessary steps to ensure a more balanced approach towards both securing consumer privacy and ensuring that businesses continue to run in an already challenging economic environment.
Note to Editors
The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee will vote its report on the subject in early summer. The draft regulation is also being considered by the governments of the 27 EU Member States in the Council of Ministers. For the final version, the Parliament and the Council need to agree with the European Commission and negotiations are likely to take months.
The areas of concern for PostEurop are underlined in the Position Paper – PostEurop Raises Concerns on the New Data Protection Regulation Rules dated 26 February 2013:
Profiling – Almost a general ban on profiling is proposed, including any form of automated processing of personal data intended to indicate personal preferences. It is well documented that profiling benefits consumers as they receive more relevant and targeted marketing communications, instead of mass mailing. If Direct Mail would be de facto prohibited in the regulation, citizens will be flooded with unaddressed mail (out of the scope of the regulation).
Consent (legitimate interest) – This proposal would severely restrict direct marketing as it would only be possible to have it carried out with the consent of the recipient in which that person is an existing customer of the marketer and the marketing communication only relates to similar products and services.
Definition of personal data – Extending the definition of personal data to socio-economic data usually used to describe a group of people with common characteristics in the report has serious economic consequences on stakeholders. Among other, this would prevent companies from getting to know their customers’ preferences and hinder them from developing targeted communication towards customers, including through the use of unaddressed mail. Hence, PostEurop Members consider that the definition of personal data as put into words in the 95/46 Directive should be preserved.
Right to be forgotten – Although the report allows some concessions, it is still not clear that if a customer requests the removal of all the data, the marketer holds on to them or retain a small amount of information to ensure that no future marketing is sent to him (i.e. suppression rather than deletion). This needs to be clarified.
POSTEUROP is the association which represents European public postal operators. It is committed to supporting and developing a sustainable and competitive European postal communication market accessible to all customers and ensuring a modern and affordable universal service. Our Members represent 2.1 million employees across Europe and deliver to 800 million customers daily through over 175,000 counters.
For more information, please contact:
Chair of the Data Protection working group at PostEurop
T: +32 2 276 88 85
T: +32 2 773 11 92