ePrivacy trilogues take unwelcome turn on telemarketing. Publishers need to be able to talk to their
Next week, negotiators on ePrivacy re-convene for the next round of ‘trilogues’ – this is where the representatives from the Parliament, Council and Commission convene to thrash out their differences, and move towards a final legal text. Some of our concerns related to role of browsers and consent for advertising have yet to be addressed, but one issue of key importance for publishers has found its way to the negotiation table.
What the rules should be on how companies communicate with their customers, and prospect, by phone – known in the trade as telemarketing which forms part of article 16 on direct marketing more broadly. Talking to your customers remains one of the most effective ways of engaging with people who subscribe to newspapers and magazines. Given the growing importance of subscription revenues to publishers across Europe (not least because of the squeeze on advertising revenues due to the dominance of the platforms), it is essential that this communication should not be limited. The current legal framework allows for Member States to decide what the best rules should be for their citizens regarding telemarketing, however, ongoing trilogue discussions in the ePrivacy are considering imposing an opt-in rule across Europe. In some countries signing up subscribers is 40% dependent on telemarketing, with peaks of 70% for special offers. It is really important therefore that the trilogues revert to the original positions of the Commission, Council and Parliament which maintain the current status quo, allowing publishers, in some countries, to continue developing valuable subscriptions, and maintain their direct relationships with their customers via telephone. In addition, the rules on telemarketing must remain flexible considering the different traditions and approaches in different countries regarding this line of communication. Making a one-size-fits-all opt-in would be unnecessary, especially when taking into account the many systems that allow consumers to express their preferences about telemarketing through central registers and similar mechanisms.
Both the Parliament and the Council had agreed in their own negotiating mandates that while consent from users is needed for direct marketing, Member States could retain some flexibility to decide on the best rules for telephone marketing including allowing consumers to opt-out. It has thus been very surprising that the trilogue negotiations are now considering imposing such a strict approach.
Together with other publishing and direct marketing organisations, we are today calling on the trilogue negotiators to reverse the change made at technical level and to continue to support publishers across Europe, large and small, in their efforts to develop sustainable subscription revenues.