Dealer groups ‘facing database suicide over GDPR because of misguidance’

Time 6:33 pm, May 23, 2018

THE automotive sector is in the process of business suicide, led by a misguidance scandal over GDPR.

That was the shocking claim made today by automotive retail solutions provider MotorVise.

GDPR – or General Data Protection Regulation – comes into effect on May 25, replacing the EU’s Data Protection Directive 1995 and the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998. Firms deemed to have misused customer data after it is introduced – including contacting them without their permission – face heavy fines.

However, MotorVise director and owner Fraser Brown, pictured, said: ‘Many business advisers 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. Our research has indicated that less than 20 per cent 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 per cent of automotive retailers’ customer databases could face being rendered useless.’

Together with legal consultancy firm Lawgistics, which provides specialist motor trade law advice and support, it has been advocating legitimate interest – which, says the Information Commissioner’s Office, is the most flexible lawful basis for processing – and the view that under GDPR opt-in consent isn’t needed for dealerships to be allowed to communicate with customers from a marketing perspective.

MotorVise said dealers didn’t have to separate sales, service and MOT marketing opt-outs – and, in fact, recommended that they didn’t do so.

It said that for all existing customers on databases, a simple email explaining that – as an existing customer – the dealer would market similar products and services to them under legitimate interest was all that was needed, as customers would also be given a link to opt out whenever they wished.

Nona Bowkis

Lawgistics, which has a regular section in Car Dealer Magazine, held GDPR workshops at our CDX event on Monday and Tuesday this week. They were run by solicitor and legal adviser Nona Bowkis, who told Car Dealer today: ‘It had been clear from calls taken on our legal helpline that there was a lot of misinformation being circulated about GDPR and the right to market to existing customers. However, after my CDX workshops I was still shocked to learn how many professional organisations and manufacturers have continued to advise dealers that they need to seek GDPR consent when sending marketing materials to their own customers.’

MotorVise emphasised, though, that meticulous time and effort must still be taken to ensure that processes and documentation were all in line with GDPR requirements. For example, customers must have the option to opt out of different forms of communication, eg, email, text, letter and phone.

It has created a free dealership legitimate interest toolkit that has all the documents needed to be compliant in the simplest and most practical way. The toolkit can be downloaded at and MotorVise can advise on its use, while Lawgistics can legally check and support dealers in finalising it.

MORE: Eight in 10 auto businesses still in the dark over GDPR, says Motor Ombudsman

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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