Members anticipate GDPR to have impact on the mailing industry – but admit to feeling unprepared

The Strategic Mailing Partnership (SMP) has raised concerns about how unprepared its members feel ahead of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force next year, a study has revealed.

Surveying members of the SMP, the largest group of mail and print suppliers and service providers in the country, nearly two thirds said they knew they would be jointly legally liable, however, 96 per cent admitted to not feeling fully prepared ahead of 25 May 2018, when the Regulation will apply in the UK.

The statistics highlight the lack of understanding and awareness surrounding GDPR, which will regulate how businesses collect, use and share data and requires that companies must build data protection into their system design and infrastructure or risk severe penalties.

The SMP survey confirmed what an important issue this was for the industry – all of the respondents believe it will have an impact on the sector, with a third believing the impact will be significant.

The survey of the SMP’s full membership asked about the preparedness of mailing houses for the implementation. It found:

- 91 per cent think the implementation will have a direct financial impact on their business – one in five think that impact will be significant

- 52 per cent of those surveyed processing data on behalf of client

- Only four per cent believe they are fully prepared for the changes with 48 per cent saying they are quite prepared and 48 per cent saying not prepared at all

- 83 per cent of those who responded believed they definitely or maybe would need extra support in preparing their business while seven in ten felt communication from the EU and Information Commissioner was not clear

- 100 per cent believe it will have an impact on their business – a third saying a significant impact.

The SMP survey also examined the potential impact on businesses involved in mailings due to the stricter rules making it harder to collect data and reach people via direct mail.

With 91 per cent believing there will be a financial impact, some respondents expressed serious concerns – one respondent said it would be “potentially catastrophic” while another said it would “reduce mailing volumes substantially” and a third even suggested it could “mean potential redundancies”.

However, our survey also found that while there were serious concerns about the challenges, there are also potential opportunities.

A number of those who responded to the survey believed there could be a positive impact which benefited reputable mailing houses. One said “we already carry out the cost of compliance but compete against cowboys” while another believed “more cautious mailers” could increase their spend on direct mail using the postal service and that “print should benefit”.

The SMP - which was established in 2008 to represent and protect the interests of Mailing Houses across the UK – is calling for more support for the industry at a time of uncertainty and questions and hopes more clarity can mitigate the negative impacts of implementation.

Judith Donovan CBE, Chair of the SMP, commented:

“GDPR is a significant moment for the industry with more burdens, more regulation and more joint liability between mailing houses and clients. While I am not surprised by these results, they are very worrying as they reveal my members are aware of their legal liabilities in theory but unsure what they need to do in practice.

“Given the crucial role played by the mailing house sector in the direct mail industry, there is no doubt this is an urgent issue to be addressed and the SMP will now be working to organise practical help and support so that the industry can find solutions that means they can survive the dramatic changes that are coming.”

The SMP surveyed its full membership between 7 April and 25 April 2017.

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