The Italian “opt-out revolution”

Italy is facing a “revolution” in the phone marketing field. Last week a new law passed providing for the “opt-out” principle as regards phone calls for direct marketing purposes.

This is not the same law as the one we commented few months ago. It is very similar though, and the result is the same: no more opt-in for calls to phone numbers included in public directories and having marketing purposes; a register of opt-outs (a Robinson list) in which data subjects shall have to enrol in order not to receive marketing calls.

As already mentioned, there are many discussions within experts, operators and consumers’ associations. The Data Protection Authority issued a press-release in which it expressed “concern” about the existence of a Robinson List which would encumber data subjects with additional obligations.

The register would be managed by a non-identified “public body” having “competence in the field”, while supervision and control over the register would be carried out by the Data Protection Authority. It is not clear how any public body in charge of the implementation and management of the register would bear related costs (and we know from foreign experiences that these costs can be significant).

It is also not clear how data subjects would be made aware of the existence of the register: since it is a data subject’s initiative to have his/her number inserted in the register, it will be important to set up ad hoc marketing campaigns.

The register shall be established within six months from the date in which the law enters into force. Until that date, the new law provides for an extension of the duration of a temporary law provision (entered into force on February 2009) under which lists formed on the basis of public phone numbers directories before August 1, 2005 could be lawfully used (without opt-ins) until December 31, 2009. This term has been extended to six months after the date in which the new law enters into force.

The transition from the temporary law provisions and the Robinson list, therefore, should be without interruption. However, it is not clear what would happen if the register is not created within the term provided for by the new law, although we may expect a further extension of an already extended term (this is becoming quite common within the Italian law system).

At this stage, we can do nothing but wait and see what will be the further developments, specially as regards the decree to be issued by the Italian Government in order to implement the register and which shall contain rules on the register functioning and management.

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