NEWS7 July 2009

Researchers win exemption from German opt-in law

Europe Government

GERMANY— The research industry in Germany has succeeded in securing an exemption from new data protection rules in a law that squeezed through on the last day of parliament before the summer break.

An amendment was agreed last week to explicitly exempt marketing and opinion research from the rules, which are designed to control the use of people’s personal data by advertisers and direct marketers.

The progress of the bill, which makes changes to various aspects of Germany’s data protection law, had stalled due to disagreements within the ruling coalition. But last minute amendments, including more relaxed rules on the sharing of data for advertising and marketing, saw it passed on Friday.

The exemption for market research came in response to calls from industry bodies including the ADM and the BVM. The change was also backed by regional representatives in the federal council, which has the chance to review bills before they are discussed in parliament, and which will decide later this week whether to approve the bill in its final form.

Critics said the proposed opt-in rules would have amounted to a ban for some parts of the research industry, making it impossible to use random samples for telephone or door-to-door surveys.

Wolfgang Dittrich, chairman of research association BVM, said the bill in its previous form posed a genuine threat to the industry, and that the failure to exempt research was an “oversight” on the part of politicians.

The ADM, the body that represents research agencies, said on Friday that it was good news for the industry and for consumers that the anonymity of respondents and the separation of research from other practices were now protected in law.

ADM chairman Hartmut Scheffler said: “We have succeeded in nurturing among political decision-makers an understanding of the working methods and objectives of market and opinion research, its fundamental differences from advertising and address trading, and its essential role as a provider of representative and high-quality information for politics and business.”