GDPR...aargh! Ends: good, bad and reckless. #1

Businesses may panic about their data centres, customer service scripts and marketing, but quietly overlook the ending of the process. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming, but few businesses will be thinking about why a ‘proper goodbye’ matters. They should because, there are going to be a lot more consumers leaving services this year, empowered by GDPR. 

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some articles about four key ending issues relating to GDPR. 

1. The right to data portability
2. Consent, and the right to remove consent
3. The right to be forgotten
4. Consumers dizzy on endings 

The critical moments of GDPR endings.

The critical moments of GDPR endings.


#1. Doubts about data
The right to data portability

Under GDPR, the consumer “has the right to obtain from the controller a copy of the provided personal data in an electronic and interoperable format which is commonly used and allows for further use”.

Many countries already have some legislation around this issue. In the UK, the Data Protection Act and within that, a Subject Access Request, already fulfils this expectation to a degree. However, it does not state expectations around an ‘interoperable format’.

Some businesses are arguing that the interoperability aspect “requires disproportionate effort without consumer lock-in”. This is a rather ironic statement, given that ‘lock in’ is a characteristic that GDPR attempts to challenge and highlights the mindset that consumer relationships have no end. 

An indicator as to the potential success or failure of data portability in GDPR could be provided by the Open Banking legislation in the UK, which was planned to come into force in January 2018, a few months before GDPR. 

Open Banking is intended to increase competition in the UK banking sector. It proposes that consumers could give consent for their data to be used by competitors to make personalised offers. Many start-ups and challenger banks are looking forward to this bounty of new opportunities. No doubt some consumers welcome it too, but not all are as informed or confident. 

According to research commissioned by Crealogix in February 2018 - just after the initiative was supposed to have been launched - 85% of consumers had never heard of it, or were unsure of what Open Banking was. Not a great start for an initiative that claims to be good for consumers.

Findings like this are fuelling concerns that the consequence of sharing data through GDPR or Open Banking will be that consumers are bombarded with offers, thus increasing the confusion. It’s as if you were permanently inside a price comparison site. This is a valid concern, given the success these sites have had over the last couple of decades in moving consumer loyalty from one service to another. In many senses price comparison sites are the introducers of doubt and the bringers of the ending. They are basically great at off-boarding consumers from one service and then on-boarding them to other, competitor services. This is a process that mimics the psychological method of exiting a role.

Role exit procedure

Helen Rose Ebaugh, was once a nun. She left the order, became a psychologist and studied others who had experienced profound role changes in their lives - ex-police, ex-robber, ex-man, ex-wife ex-husband, ex-nun. Her book, Becoming an Ex, outlines the pattern of behaviour that leads to people having doubts about their role. Usually it starts with an event, maybe a traumatic one, that didn’t go as planned. After this the individual will be open to doubt about their role.They may then go on to seek confirmation of this doubt through additional evidence and cueing behaviour in friends or colleagues which may reinforce, or temper their concern.

In commercial terms, what the price comparison site does is to interrogate those concerns by comparing the consumer’s current service with potential new services by comparing prices and service features. 

Price Comparison Sites follow Role Exit Procedure

Price Comparison Sites follow Role Exit Procedure

Although currently the consumer has to enter their details manually, the GDPR legislation proposes an electronic and interoperable format. This will provide competitors with the personal data needed to build an individual offer with an accurate context of the consumer’s situation. Once the consumer’s doubts about their current service are reinforced, ‘a crack of opportunity emerges’ as Ebaugh describes it, and the price comparison site guides the consumer to choices from a new provider and then closes the deal. It’s no wonder that these types of site are some of the biggest sales channels for service companies. 

Put off by paranoia

As the issue of data sharing becomes clearer for the consumer, and the enforcement of the new legislation takes hold, the consumer will become more confident in his or her actions with regard to data portability. Brand perception for the consumer will go beyond the normal on-boarding and usage offers, to be extended to the attitudinal behaviour around data from incumbent service. How future businesses choose to share their consumer data will say everything about that service. Brand confidence, business trust and honesty will be gauged by confident sharing. But the process may be hobbled by hidden agendas, stalling and paranoia about customers sharing their data. 

In future, the best brands dealing with data will be the confident, considerate sharers, who educate their consumers, regardless of their place in the consumer life cycle. Great on-boarding and service usage will now have to be married with considerate sharing, even if it means waving goodbye to that customer.