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You may have heard of the latest acronymed buzzword – GDPR – which stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is the updating and unifying of laws around data privacy for the European Union.

Coming into force on 25 May 2018, marketers must help ensure that their company is compliant and meets the new requirements, being able to demonstrate how they abide to the lawful conditions if challenged.

Despite Marketing Week stating that only 54% of businesses surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) expect to be complaint by May 2018, here’s a quick guide to help your knowledge.

In a nutshell, the GDPR affects businesses that collect and process data of EU citizens in these three circumstances:

  • When it comes to opt-ins, consent must be given by customers in the form of a ‘clear affirmative action’ – such as ticking a box (a pre-ticked box is not permitted) – that means they agree to their data being used, understand how it will be processed and that they are happy to be contacted.

Some B2B marketers might think they’re exempt from this, but marketing data held for sole traders or partnerships will fall under the rules governing B2C marketing, so B2B marketers will need opt-in consent for email contact.

  • Individuals have the right to know how their data will be used, what data organisations have collected from them, and the ability to withdraw their data.
  • Processing data must mean better housekeeping by marketers – and not so much collecting for unnecessary reasons.

If an organisation cannot prove how they have obtained consent, the likelihood is that they’ll be fined. Businesses need to demonstrate that their marketing data is being held securely and ethically.

And failure to comply with the GDPR can lead to big monetary penalties, with some breaches reaching around €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover – whatever the greater figure is.

To ensure they avoided any possibility of a fine, Wetherspoons decided to delete their entire customer database, and start afresh. While cynics may say this is a silly move, the GDPR means that companies can get closer to their loyal and returning customers.

Ultimately, this is a great opportunity to audit the way your business collects data, whilst being able to focus on accumulating the right kind of customer data moving forward, in a legal and compliant manner. At the same time, marketers need to be geared up to be able to take appropriate action to requests to view, change or remove customer data.