IoF calls for soft opt-in model for marketing emails and texts

Institute of Fundraising
Institute of Fundraising

The Institute of Fundraising has said that charities should not be prohibited from sending marketing emails and texts to their existing supporters without specific consent.

In its submission to the EU Commission’s first public consultation on its proposed review of the eprivacy directive, the piece of legislation that informs the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, the IoF said the PECR’s explicit prohibition on charities using the "soft opt-in" rule when sending marketing emails and texts should be removed.

The soft opt-in rule means that businesses can email or text their own customers even if they have not specifically consented to receiving such communications. It cannot currently be used in charity fundraising and other non-commercial promotions, including political campaigning, which the IoF believes puts charities at a disadvantage.

Mike Smith, head of public affairs at the IoF, told Third Sector that the membership body’s response, which was submitted before the consultation closed on 5 July, said that allowing charities to use the soft opt-in would result in a level-playing field being achieved.

This, he said, would allow people who support charities "to hear from them in the same way that they can hear about products or services from companies where they are existing customers".

The Direct Marketing Association also responded to the consultation, which is intended to provide feedback on the proposed reform of measures such as the UK’s use of opt-out consent for telemarketing and rules for marketing on social media.

In its response, the DMA said that much of the eprivacy directive was covered by the new General Data Protection Regulations, creating what a spokesman for the association described as an extra layer of unnecessary legislation for individuals and organisations to deal with.

For example, the GDPR have detailed rules on how organisations should report data breaches, but the eprivacy directive has its own rules on this.

The DMA’s spokesman said this was inefficient and the association had therefore called for the provisions in the eprivacy directive that were already covered by the GDPR to be removed.

The DMA also said the UK should be able to maintain its existing approach to telemarketing, which is to use an opt-out consent model. The directive currently leaves it up to member states to decide whether an opt-in or opt-out model is appropriate.

"In the DMA’s view, the flexibility given by the eprivacy directive to member states to decide between opt-in and opt-out solutions for telemarketing has led to a regime that both the industry and individuals have become familiar with," the DMA’s response said. "While greater harmonisation is important, it should not lead to the restriction of marketing practices which are commonly accepted at national level and are sufficiently protective of the individual."

According to a summary report of the consultation results, published earlier this month, 73 per cent of private company respondents from across the EU agreed with the DMA’s position on opt-out. But almost 90 per cent of the citizens, civil society organisations and public authorities who responded said they would favour an opt-in regime.

The EU Commission said it would publish a full report giving its response to the consultation, which attracted 421 replies, in the autumn. Results will feed into the design and the implementation of EU policy, including a review of the eprivacy directive.

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