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Car dealers are the victims of an automotive GDPR 'misguidance scandal' – guest opinion

Fraser Brown, managing director, MotorVise

Many business advisors and leading automotive consultancy firms have fundamentally misguided thousands of car dealerships across the UK, with regards to GDPR.

Dealerships and dealer groups have been misinformed by leading industry consultants, manufacturers and associations who believe they need opt-in consent to communicate with customers.

Dealer groups across the UK are now undertaking database suicide by asking customers to tick a 12 box opt in form.

Research carried out by MotorVise has indicated that less than 20% of customers will interact with this form of communication and those that respond are most likely to opt-out, rather than opt-in.

This means more than 80% of automotive retailers’ customer databases could face being rendered useless.

MotorVise and Lawgistics have been advocating legitimate interest for some time and the view that under GDPR, opt-in consent is simply not required for car dealerships to be allowed to communicate with customers from a marketing perspective.

This does not mean dealers can bury their heads in the sand and carry on with business as usual.

Meticulous time and effort must still be taken to ensure that processes and documentation are all in line with GDPR requirements.

If you should decide to go down the legitimate interest route, then you will need to be completely clear with your customers about how you will use their data, at the time of enquiry or purchase.

You must develop an easy way to ensure that all customer opt-outs are always clearly and promptly recorded, complying with every request within 28 days.

So, do dealers have to provide customers with options to opt out of sales, service and MOT marketing separately?

You do not have to separate sales and aftersales marketing. In fact, we would recommend you do not do this.

Customers opting out of sales communication will lose the opportunity to receive service and MOT reminders.

This will therefore encourage more customers to remain in.

Customers will still receive safety recall notices when they are considered serious as the manufacture will access DVLA databases to inform all owners of affected vehicles.

You must provide customers with the option to opt-out of different forms of communication, e.g. email, text letter and phone.

It must be as easy to opt-out as it was to submit their data in the first place.

You must give customers the option to opt out at the time they purchased and every time you market to them afterwards.

For all existing customers on your database: a simple email to explain to them that, as an existing customer, you will market similar products and services to them under legitimate interest.

Customers will be able to see how you will use their data through a link to a data privacy notice on your website.

This link, alongside an invitation to opt out of marketing at any time, via another simple link, will be more than enough (combined with the other elements of the MotorVise toolkit) to enable marketing to these customers without opt in.

If you are a franchised dealer you will have a contractual right to pass data to the manufacturer, to fulfil the order and to pass the data on to DVLA and others.

The manufacturer privacy policy must be easily accessible to the customer, so that they can see how their data is used.

Although you have a contractual right to pass the data to the manufacturer, the manufacturer will want to market to your customers despite having an indirect relationship.

This cannot be done on a legitimate interest basis, as they are not a customer of the manufacturer.

A simple opt-in paragraph on the order form, referring to the manufacturer privacy policy URL, with the four opt-in boxes for the different forms of communication for your manufacturer can be put in place.

Those people who opt in to manufacturer marketing will now be able to receive marketing from them and you will need to input this to the manufacturer system as part of the process of sharing data with the manufacturer.

MotorVise have a comprehensive (completely free) dealer toolkit that makes all the above extremely simple and easy for the dealer.

Lawgistics can support in terms of helping to personalise this and finally sign it off before going live with the processes and documents.

In closing, do not go down the opt-in consent route by writing to your database and asking them to opt-in as most will not.

Simply invest your time in becoming compliant with processes, systems and documents, in line with your legitimate interest of marketing similar products and services to your customers.

You can find full details of this guidance on page 40 of the ICO Direct Marketing Guide.

Download you full free dealership Legitimate interest toolkit with all the documents you need to be compliant in the simplest and most practical way at 

MotorVise can advise on the use of the toolkit and Lawgistics can legally check and support you in finalising it.

Author: Fraser Brown, managing director, MotorVise

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