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What Could Go Wrong If Your Business Breaches PECR?

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The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) are a set of legal rules which, amongst other things, regulate electronic communications. These rules cover various areas, including electronic marketing communications and cookies. Breaching PECR can have significant negative consequences for businesses. This article will explore PECR and what can happen if your business breaches this vital law. 

What Is PECR and Why Does It Matter?

While most businesses are aware of and have some understanding of the regulations outlined in the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), which governs the processing of personal data concerning individuals, there often needs to be more awareness surrounding the rules established by PECR. PECR complements the UK GDPR by setting forward various regulations to protect privacy rights concerning electronic communications.

Compliance with PECR is compulsory, and it includes rules in several areas, including rules on sending marketing messages via texts, emails, faxes, and phone calls and on the appropriate use of cookies and similar technologies. Additionally, PECR stipulates rules for maintaining secure communication services and protecting customer privacy concerning traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

Compliance with PECR is crucial to protecting individuals’ privacy rights in electronic communications. Further, businesses that demonstrate compliance with PECR can help nurture customer trust, improving relationships and potential business opportunities.

What Are Some Common PECR Rules?

PECR includes rules many businesses must follow, especially regarding direct marketing and cookies.

Common rules include:

Direct Marketing:

  • following strict rules when engaging in email, text, and call marketing messages; and
  • getting consent before sending marketing messages to particular recipients unless an exception applies. 

Cookies:

  • informing users about cookies; and 
  • letting users control cookie preferences.

Navigating the complexities of PECR can be challenging for businesses. However, given the significant consequences of breaching these rules, seeking legal advice is essential if a company is uncertain about its obligations and what it should do to comply. 

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What Could Go Wrong If Your Business Breaches PECR?

Breaching PECR can lead to various negative consequences for businesses, depending on the severity of the relevant breach. 

Some of the most severe repercussions could include the following: 

Enforcement Action 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has various means to enforce the PECR regulations in cases of breaches. Their enforcement actions include criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement, and audit rights.

The ICO also holds the authority to issue a monetary penalty notice, imposing fines of up to £500,000 against the organisation or its directors.

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It is essential to note that these enforcement powers are not mutually exclusive. Depending on the circumstances and severity of the breach, the ICO may combine them to address and rectify non-compliant behaviour effectively.

Indeed, breaches of PECR have been a hot topic for the regulator and an area in which the ICO has significantly cracked down, as shown by several fines issued against companies for breaching these rules. 

Reputational Damage

Non-compliance with PECR can result in significant reputational damage to the business. Both consumers and companies alike are increasingly mindful of data privacy issues, and any perception of mishandling or disregarding their privacy rights can lead to a loss of trust.

Negative publicity surrounding breaches of PECR can taint a business’s brand image and affect its relationships with various customers, partners, and other stakeholders. This is particularly the case where a company has received enforcement action, which has been published in the media.

Legal Action 

Non-compliance with PECR can lead to further negative implications and heavy fines from the ICO. 

Under Regulation 30 of PECR, individuals affected by a PECR breach have the right to pursue legal action and seek compensation for any damages incurred. 

This additional layer of risk highlights the importance of companies adhering to PECR regulations. In addition to potential regulatory penalties from the ICO itself, they also face the prospect of costly legal battles.

Following the PECR regulations correctly can mitigate these negative consequences and establish your commitment to responsible compliance, furthering trust with your customers and individuals. 

Key Takeaways

The PECR rules are mandatory, and complying with them is not optional. Compliance with these rules is vital. If your business breaches the rules under PECR, it could face a range of significant, severe implications. For instance, you risk heavy fines, severe reputational damage and legal action against your business. 

Following the PECR rules can help build customer trust and demonstrate your commitment to compliance. You should seek professional legal advice if you require support understanding the PECR rules and how they apply to your business. 

If you need legal advice on compliance with PECR, LegalVision’s experienced regulatory and compliance lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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Sej Lamba

Sej Lamba

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