The 1997 EU Distance Selling Directive is due for implementation June 2000.
Topic: Direct selling
New development: The 1997 EU Distance Selling Directive is due for implementation June 2000. The Directive deals with unsolicited commercial emails ("UCEM") but allows EU states to decide for themselves whether to go for opt in or opt out. The UK Government has to make its choice on this critical issue within the next few months.
Background: In November 1999 the DTI issued draft Regulations which will implement the Distance Selling Directive (see separate report in this Preview Section) but has split out the UCEM question and, because of what it describes as the complex issues raised, launched a separate consultation exercise devoted to this issue alone.
What will change: The UK Government reports that it is working with the Alliance for Electronic Business, the Consumers' Association and the Office of Fair Trading on a raft of initiatives directed at controlling UCEM. These include the introduction of core principles to feature in all relevant industry codes, dealing amongst other things with how consumers can avoid unwanted UCEM, a new body, working title "TrustUK", to accredit e-commerce codes that embody the desired principles, a hallmark that accredited codes can use on their sites, the setting up of international complaints handling networks and the development of an EU wide Code.
Interestingly, the paper makes no express reference to the Direct Marketing Association's recent initiative to set up an email preference service. This enables consumers who do not wish to receive UCEM to register with a central body which will do its best by intra industry measures to prevent UCEM going to those consumers.
Against this background, the DTI requests views on two alternative UCEM Regulations to form part of the new Distance Selling rules, one based on "opt-in" where consumers can only be sent UCEM if they have taken the step of ticking an "opt-in" box, (generally recognised as likely to saw the UCEM industry off at the knees if introduced), the other "opt-out," based on the current Data Protection Act-driven regime and allowing marketers to send UCEM unless consumers have ticked an "opt-out" box.
Against "opt-in" the Paper cites the difficulty of enforcing such a rule against the vast majority of those currently sending UCEM, since they are located outside the UK.
It also chillingly warns that UK based businesses sending UCEM to consumers resident in other EU states will be subject to the legislation of the Member State concerned. So much for harmonisation!
Timetable: Introduction of UCEM rules will be part and parcel of implementing the Distance Selling Directive, due by 4 June 2000.
What happens next: The DTI requests comments on the issues raised by 23 December 1999 and will presumably indicate by Spring 2000 whether it has opted for opt in or opt out.