From May 2010 Italy will introduce an opt-out regime for telemarketing, as opposed to the previous opt-in regime for marketing calls to phone numbers included in public directories. Omar Bucchioni takes us to Italy and explains the pros and cons of this change.
Who: Italian Parliament
When: 24 November 2009
Law stated as at: 31 December 2009
On 20 November 2009, the Italian Parliament passed a new law which introduced a new paragraph into section 130 of the Italian Data Protection Code (Italian Data Protection Code: http://www.garanteprivacy.it/garante/document?ID=1219452) (Unsolicited communications). This changes the system for authorizing the use of telephone data for telemarketing (phone advertising). (Law 166 section 20-bis)
From May 2010 Italy will introduce an opt-out regime for telemarketing, as opposed to the previous opt-in regime for marketing calls to phone numbers included in public directories. Consumers who do not wish to receive marketing calls will need to register with a special public opt-out register (“Register”), which still has to be created.
In favour of the new Opt-out regime
According to the Italian MP Lucio Malan, who brought this proposal to the Parliament, the old regime had, as one of its weaknesses, the fact that consumers gave their consent to be contacted by third parties without realising it, through “hidden” clauses in contracts.
The aim of this Register is to have a definite record of people’s wishes, as is already the case in both France and the UK. In addition, if telemarketers fail to observe the new rules, consumers will have the opportunity to report them to the Italian data protection authority (“Authority”) or press charges with an ordinary tribunal.
In favour of the old Opt-in regime
Open criticism of this change in the regime has been expressed by major consumer groups and by the Authority (Italian Data Protection Authority: http://www.garanteprivacy.it). The Law states that the statutory instruments need to create the public register within 6 months. The Authority warned that there is a risk of further nuisance as “Consumers will be contacted massively by companies offering various services until the public register is actually in place”.
The Authority claimed that the Register will “burden citizens with tasks and problems”. Basically there will be no obligations for call centres, telemarketers and telecom operators to take note of the opt-out choice of consumers as expressed when contacting them by telephone. If consumers do not want to be contacted, they need to enter their “opt-out” preference in the Register.
Why this matters:
The introduction of new opt-out regime for telemarketing in Italy has raised the concerns of the Italian Data Protection Authority and some consumers’ associations worried that a do not call register would burden consumers with unnecessary aggravations. The register would be managed by a non-identified “public body” having “competence in the field” under the supervision and control of the Authority. At this stage there is no information as to the related costs of managing and keeping the Register up to date.
Once the new system is up and running, companies carrying out telemarketing should consult the Register before contacting consumers although the sanctions for non-compliance have been reduced from €20,000 to €10,000. In addition companies contacting consumers for telemarketing purposes must show their telephone numbers and in the call give consumers information in relation to the possibility of opting out by entering onto the Register.
It remains to be seen how the statutory instruments will set about implementing the Register and the rules on its administration and management.
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