GDPR – Helpline Is At Hand!

I have been engaged on GDPR with a variety of clients for well over twelve months, and whilst conferences, webinars and other such events can give you a broad understanding of the regulations, there is nothing quite like working hands on within a business to give yourself a flavour of the challenges and unintended consequences that could ensue.

“We don’t do any marketing” is a common statement, sometimes followed by, “we send out Happy Birthday messages with a discount voucher, but that’s not really marketing.”

Each sector has its own challenges, and recruitment is struggling with the concept of throwing away their database of candidates. “The candidates don’t know we have their data as we have never contacted them, so why do we have to get rid of it?” has been said more than a few times!

Recruiters are faced with the daunting task of trying to refresh most, if not all, of their existing candidate database, and the expected response rate is somewhere between one and five per cent. The question “can’t we incentivise them to respond?” is often asked, the assumption being that offering, for instance, entry into a prize draw is more likely to get a response, even if that response is “No!”

The ICO are quite clear that you cannot tie consent in to any kind of service, but in this case it is not consent that is being asked for, simply a response to the question. A grey area? Earlier this year a well-known Premier League football club used exactly these tactics. “We need to re-obtain your consent, and if you respond to this email by 31st January we will enter you into a prize draw.” They were not tying the prize draw into a positive consent, it was for anyone who simply updated their consents, positive or negative.

In late 2017 The ICO launched a helpline dedicated to GDPR for SMEs, though most SMEs that I have spoken to have never heard of it. Even though I work within the realm of GDPR, regrettably I cannot know everything, and although there has been a lot of helpful and practical advice on Linkedin and other forums, I thought I would give the helpline a try.

After waiting thirty minutes I hung up. The following day I did the same. Finally, I decided that I would hang on for as long as it took. Unfortunately the helpline does not tell you where you are in the queue or what your wait time will be. As it happened my third call was answered after around 40 minutes.

The helpful chap on the other end of the line listened patiently to my question of incentivised emails in relation to consent, and his answer was measured though not immediate; he had to verify the details with one of his colleagues. However, he left me in no doubt that the issue that I had raised with him would definitely be ‘reviewed’, though his stance at the time was that incentivised requests to update consent would not be allowed.

Overall it was a useful chat, but with no definitive outcome. However, I would not discourage anyone from using this service, whether large or small. There is no vetting as to the size of your organisation. The number is 0303 123 1113, from where you select option 4. My only advice would be to ensure you have a cup of tea and plenty of biscuits available while you wait.

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