The Magnificent U.K. Seven: Part 4

If you work for a U.S. company and have helped put together an email marketing campaign in the U.K., you know that a lot more than a common language separates these countries. There are significant cultural differences to take into account, plus an entirely different legal framework. Making sense of it all is enough to give any email marketer a headache!

Fortunately, our Magnificent U.K. Seven includes a doctor (of sorts): Meet Jeffrey Baumgartner, AKA Dr. Ecommerce. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, he has the cure for all the rules and regulations that affect your email marketing activities in the U.K.

He’s currently working on a consultancy contract with the European Commission’s e-commerce unit. He also manages the Dr. Ecommerce Web site, which provides advice about global e-commerce, with an emphasis on Europe.

Dangerous Ground

Baumgartner says that an email marketer thinking of venturing into U.K. territory needs to keep three critical issues in mind:

  • Personal data. There is better protection in Europe than the U.S., and people are more sensitive to privacy.

  • Spam. People in the U.K. often get spam from American companies targeting American consumers. This has given them an even more skeptical attitude toward targeted email marketing from America, even when it is perfectly legitimate opt-in stuff.
  • Advertising and marketing differences. Countries’ advertising and marketing techniques differ. For example, Britons perceive much of U.S. advertising as too “hard sell,” while Americans often perceive British advertising as unclear.

Baumgartner emphasizes that ignoring cultural differences can turn an expensive advertising campaign into an expensive waste of money — something that no one wants!

Jurisdiction Issues

A few months back, I took a look at some of the implications of a new European Union (EU) law. According to Baumgartner, not a close enough look! (OK, so I’m not a lawyer!)

“By my understanding,” Baumgartner says, “you were confusing the issue of jurisdiction (the decision that consumers can sue businesses in their home countries) with requiring businesses to have a base in the country in which they are selling. Because there are no international treaties on this issue, a U.S.-based company selling to European consumers would not be in danger of being sued in European courts.”

He adds, “The issue of jurisdiction being in the consumer’s country is only relevant in B2C [business-to-consumer] e-commerce. In B2B [business-to-business] e-commerce, it comes down to the terms of the contract.”

Contract? What sort of contract should we be drawing up? Baumgartner provides the specifics: “If U.S. companies are selling overseas, they do need to make it clear on their general terms that in the event of a dispute, jurisdiction is in the U.S.A.; otherwise, any consumer anywhere can attempt to sue from his or her country. This is an issue of ordinary contract law.”

So what Baumgartner is really saying is that the big issue reverts back to a data-protection directive, which protects individuals’ personal data.

Protecting Data

Baumgartner sums up the fundamentals of a sound data-management strategy:

  • Get individuals’ permission to collect personal data.

  • Indicate what data is being collected.
  • Advise what will be done with the data.
  • Specify how long the data will be kept.
  • Allow individuals access to their personal data.
  • Enable consumers to correct errors in their personal data.

Sending data to the U.S. to be processed is considered illegal. Yet, if the merchant makes clear that he or she will send the data to the U.S. and ensures it is not used for any purpose other than that stated, it should not be a problem.

“Because the U.S.A. has no such data-protection legislation,” Baumgartner says, “it was decided that U.S.A. companies should not be allowed to collect data on consumers.” This didn’t go over so well, so the U.S. Congress “proposed a safe harbor treaty, which stipulates that U.S.A. companies which abide by the requirements of the data protection directive would be allowed to collect European consumers’ personal data.”

Baumgartner also emphasizes that it is important to be aware that the EU is trying to develop a legal framework for e-commerce so that there are consistent e-commerce laws across the EU. Baumgartner concludes, “The EU is very much supporting alternative dispute resolution services which would resolve disputes out of court. The idea is that a trusted third party would review the case and make a judgment. Such a service could be offered online and allow the resolution of disputes relatively quickly and independently.”

Join me in two weeks to hear what Rob Walk, the founder of DP&A Digital, has to say on matters of email marketing in the U.K.

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