Did Email Marketing Just Catch A Massive EU Break? DMA Certainly Thinks So

Did B2B email marketers just get a belated Christmas present from the EU? The DMA most certainly thinks so, and has assured members this morning that their "worst ePrivacy B2B fears (have been) averted." The latest version of the proposed ePrivacy Directive has been officially released, and some of the wording that describes the DMA labels as "draconian" has been removed.

To cut a long story short, the DMA received the wording of an earlier draft before Christmas and was alarmed by the blurring of distinctions between individuals and businesses through the use of the terms "natural" and "legal entities." In essence, the DMA was alarmed by the possibility that the stricter opt-in rules that are being applied to b2c email marketing would be visited upon business-to-business (b2b).

Business-to-business has always been a bit of grey area, and has managed to survive rules that have been brought in to protect consumer inboxes. The culmination of this is the GDPR, whose massive fines will become enforceable in spring 2018. The basic point is that consumers can only be emailed if they have submitted their informed and freely given permission to be contacted. In addition, every use for the data they are supplying will be put to must be approved by consumers.

In the absence of concrete guidance on what the new law means for businesses, the general assumption has been that b2b email marketing would fall under the same rules. Corporate inboxes would be protected by GDPR's opt-in requirements.

Well, now the ePrivacy Directive has changed its terminology to reinstate a difference between b2b and business-to-consumer (b2c). In short, b2c still requires explicit opt-in, while the latest wording suggests that b2b can carry on as long as "legitimate interests" are protected.

The DMA is keen to point out that "legitimate interest" also applies to the GDPR and b2b email marketing. It is interpreting this as a business having a reasonable interest in the recipient, and that they offer a means of coming off a list and not being contacted again. So if a business is offering something that another would reasonably be expected to be interested in and they offer an opt-out, things can carry on as usual, the DMA believes.

This, of course, may be open to interpretation. However, b2b email marketers can take solace that the DMA is, under the current wording, taking the line that direct marketing can pretty much carry on as before. All that may be needed is an explanation of why a company is emailing another business and what the recipient can do to prevent any further messages. 

I don't know about you, but that pretty much sounds like business as usual, give or take. If so, I think it's fair to say that b2b has definitely caught a break from Brussels.

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