In an article featured in Raconteur's special report, Future of Retail & Ecommerce 2023, Intellectual Property senior associate Sarah Simpson discussed the potential outlook for retailers under the United Kingdom's latest iteration of its data protection and digital information bill.

Introduced in early March, the UK bill is intended to alleviate burdens borne by businesses under the country's current data protection framework. While there would be tangible benefits for the retail sector, Sarah explained that the bill also presents possible risks. For instance, there are concerns that the proposal to remove cookie consent banners from websites could lead to more profiling and tracking, which in turn could undermine transparency surrounding personal data collection.

"Changes to the rules governing direct marketing – for instance, broadening the so-called soft opt-in to include a simple means of refusing such marketing materials – will be hugely beneficial to retail companies. At present, the soft opt-in is limited to where individuals have bought goods or services from businesses previously, enabling such businesses to continue marketing to them," Sarah explained.

Under the bill, retailers could be permitted to target consumers with whom they do not have a prior relationship, by allowing such consumers to unsubscribe via an "opt-out link." Sarah explained that this could open opportunities to market to a wider range of individuals, thus boosting sales and improving revenue. However, she emphasized that retailers may ultimately inherit additional administrative burdens through the proposed changes.

"If customers aren't given the option to control how their data is collected, they may seek clarification of this in other ways, such as via subject-access requests. These are an administrative headache that can be hugely costly for businesses to deal with," Sarah said.

"What the Revised Data Protection and Digital Information Bill Means for Retailers," Future of Retail & Ecommerce 2023, March 30, 2023

*Subscription may be required for article access.