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Exceptions may save list industry in Germany

Since a new opt-in law was passed in Germany last month, commentators and in particular the German list industry have been attempting to de-code the legislation. Some are optimistic that exceptions written into the law – largely as a result of industry lobbying - will allow the continued trading of data for legitimate third party use.


Even though the changes will come into effect on 1st September a transitional period will apply to legacy data until 31st August 2012. That said any data owners collecting personal details from September onwards will have to satisfy the new rules or risk fines of €300, 000.


So what are these rules and exceptions? FEDMA tell us that business to business data is excluded but whether that includes the “mom and pop” businesses which proliferate in Germany is unclear. There is also a “soft opt-in” exception for a companies own products and services and public domain data (like the ‘phone book) is out of scope as is data for charitable campaigns.


However, the exception which may prove most useful to list brokers will be that postal data can still be collected with opt-out if the source of the personal data is clearly marked on the user’s mailing piece. This is similar to the requirements in Scandinavian countries but some list owners may not be happy with the disclosure and list numbers may reduce. It also makes the “secrets” of list selection an open book for competitors.


Email/SMS and telemarketing still require a firm opt-in for cold approaches but there is, at least, some hope for the postal channel in Germany. The biggest concern outside the country is whether these changes will influence the current drafting of the new Data Protection Directive.

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