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Data alert over 'helpful' notes

New EU measures, which are worrying for dealers, were brought into force on March 1 as part of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Dealers risk claims for compensation for damage and distress suffered by customers if they unlawfully or inaccurately process or disclose customers' personal data.

Those who know ads should be 'legal, decent, honest and truthful' should realise customers' data must be processed fairly and lawfully for purposes to which customers have consented. It has to be accurate, kept securely and updated or discarded regularly.

The new Act goes further than the Data Protection Act 1984 and the rights for customers to access data held about them have been enhanced. On payment of a single fee of £10, a customer is entitled to see all information held about them.

“Helpful” commentary included on systems by sales staff designed to eliminate time wasters from sales efforts may be on view. Keeping them off the computer system will not help as even manual records may be caught.

The new Act contains specific rights for customers to prevent processing for direct marketing purposes. This is included in an explicit right, making opt-out tick boxes a must. Where sensitive data is concerned, such as information relating to racial or ethnic origin, health and criminal convictions opt-in tick boxes will now be required. The full text of regulations can be on this website: www.dataprotection.gov.uk

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