Trust is an obsession among marketers. Ensuring that customers build and maintain their trust in a brand sits at the heart of what marketers practice, at least in their public statements. Whether that is truly their goal could be doubted, however. Certainly, it is questionable whether it wins out against competing corporate demands that may insist products are forced on customers, whether they like, want or trust them.
Take the example of personal protection insurance. Superficially, PPI was a trust-based product, offering to shield a customer against the worst that can happen. It was marketed on the basis that the brand was looking after its customers and they could therefore trust the product.
As we now know, none of that was true - few who needed it ever got a payout and now the banks are having to make restitution. That has given rise to an entire sector of the data industry focused on harvesting phone numbers with permission to call or text (or at least that have not opted-out or registered with TPS). Unsolicited calls and texts have in turn become the number one public nuisance and the companies using them have lost all consumer trust.
So now regulators have stepped in to protect consumers against companies offering to protect consumers against companies that used to offer to protect consumers. Do you see the paradox in that?
Which brings us to the Data Protection Regulation. (Don’t stop reading, you need to know this stuff.) If you believe UK marketers, it can’t ever become law simply because it is unfair to legitimate business interests. To them, losing the first reading vote in the European Parliament by 621 to 10 was simply a good start. They are pinning all their hopes on the Council of Ministers stepping in to stop the proposals from becoming law.
It is true that the Council is currently deadlocked, but not for the reasons UK marketers believe. Germany is against the “one-stop-shop” element of the Regulation which would allow a consumer to raise a complaint against, say, a UK business trading in the consumer’s home country of, say, Italy with the Italian data protection authority. This would risk diluting the extremely high levels of protection that exist in countries like Germany, they argue, by giving a country with lower standards, like Italy, the right to arbitrate.
What now seems to be happening is the introduction of a Plan B to hedge against any such failure or delay of the Regulation. The European Commission is now investigating Google’s data protection practices under competition law (and it is the American internet businesses which the Commission particularly has in its sights).
That shifts the whole argument onto the territory of consumer rights and trust. On this, legislators and regulators are unlikely to brook any argument - and they have ample examples of why marketers can not be believed when they say they are working in the best interests of their customers.