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Cold Calling and GDPR, are They Compatible?

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You can, if you so wish, spend considerable amounts of time consulting any number of documents all claiming to give you the low down on the implications of GDPR on every sort of business. Many new businesses are flourishing on the back of advising clients on the implications of this legislation and whilst we wouldn’t like to steal the bread out of the mouths of all these entrepreneurs here’s our potted version of how GDPR will affect cold calling.

No 1: Yes it will, but it’s not the end of cold calling.
No 2: There’s something else on its way that may have an even bigger effect. It’s called the ‘ePrivacy Directive’ but, hey, let’s not worry about that now. 

Please, by all means, read the entire GDPR legislation, but forgive us if here we cut to the chase and look at Article 6, the one that’s titled‘Lawfulness of processing’. This is where we find the requirements an organisation must satisfy in order to use personal data within the business’ activities. For most of us the word ‘processing’ has implications of changing one thing into another. It’s not helpful, because in GDPR speak it just means ’use’.

In essence to be able to use data a business needs to meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Explicit permission given for a specific purpose
  2. Contractual obligations
  3. To protect someone’s vital interests
  4. If the use of the data is in the public interest
  5. If it’s a legal obligation
  6. If none of these apply but you can show that your organisation’s ‘legitimate interests’ are as valid as someone’s ‘fundamental rights and freedom.

Of these, we’re sure you’ll agree that the first five are clear, specific and of no help to the cold caller. The sixth, however, potentially is. What it says in full is:

Article 6 Part 1 (f:) processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.

Assuming that children are not your target, then what this paragraph gives is a potential way through based on the balance between your ‘legitimate interests’ as a business and the ‘interests or fundamental rights and freedoms’ of those you want to cold call. But before you get too excited be aware that this is no easy way out. On the contrary, Paragraph 6(1)(f) has already stirred reaction in the form of a 57 page ‘opinion’ from the Data Protection Working Party, so we advise you take every precaution to document and prove that your ‘legitimate interests’ outweigh the ‘interests or fundamental rights and freedoms’ of each of the individuals you had intended to call.

How do you do this? Take it seriously! Document in detail what you consider your legitimate business interests to be. You may want to start with basics like employing people and generating income…all this will be on ‘your’ side of the balance. The other side is more nebulous and therefore more challenging. Within those ‘interests and fundamental rights and freedoms’ mentioned above lies consideration of ‘the reasonable expectations of the data subjects’, i.e. the potential emotional impact of your use of their data. Here GDPR and Ofcom blend, the former concerned with preventing distress through misuse of data, the latter distress through misuse of people’s communications media, however you choose to deconstruct that..

In all of this, the potential impact of your cold call is important. Using legally sourced phone numbers to cold call will be seen in a very different light to posting personal medical records. For GDPR your wanting to promote your business is small beer, but then so is the potential impact of your call, but for all of this you still have to demonstrate that the needs of your business outweigh the considerations of those people you’re going to be calling.

How can you do this? How can you safeguard your position? We’ll look at this next month!  As mentioned above, the good news is that, so long as it’s planned properly, cold calling can continue, so you’ll still need first class phone lines, competitive pricing and great support. To discuss how we can help you, give us a ring!

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