Tell a friend systems in Dutch

So yes, tell-a-friend system are continuing to be in Dutch (trouble), but more recently are now being regulated in the Netherlands (Dutch) as well.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM or the Act). The provisions were intended to clarify the Act’s requirements. One of those four provions stated that as a general matter, if a seller offers something of value in exchange for forwarding (tell-a-friend) a commercial message, the seller must comply with the Act’s requirements, such as honoring opt-out requests. A web page that has a “Click here to forward” feature that allows someone to forward a message or link to someone else (and that does not provide any encouragement to do so) would not be considered an inducement.

It was reported last week in the Netherlands that there are now joint regulations on tell-a-friend web site created by the Dutch Telecommunications Authority (DTA) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DDPA)

As some of you are aware already, in most countries outside the U.S., privacy is a fundamental right and nearly if not all programs/process to share data require an OPT-IN. The basic principle is that the sending of unsolicited electronic messages for a commercial, non-commercial or charitable purpose is not allowed without the demonstrable, prior consent of the recipient. Because the recipients of tell-a-friend emails have not given their demonstrable, prior consent to receive these emails, “Tell-a-friend” systems in principle violate that right.

The question at hand that created these regulations was whether or not tell-a-friend forms are allowed under Dutch privacy laws. In the new regulations the DTA and DDPA mandated that tell-a-friend forms are ONLY allowed if;
  1. The communication takes place entirely at the Internet user’s own initiative. The controller of the website does not hold out the prospect of any (chance of) reward or other advantage, neither to the sender nor to the recipient. So in other words, the website site visitors sends the email invite at their own initiative.
  2. The website operator does NOT offer rewards to its visitors for using the forward to a friend form. 
  3. It must be clear to the recipient who the initiating Internet user of the email is.
  4. The visitor must have the opportunity to read the entire message that is sent in his or her name before he or she decides to send it, in such a way that he or she can take responsibility for the personal contents of the message.  
  5. The data controller or website operator may not store the email addresses and other personal data of recipients. 
Most of these points seem to be easy to comply with, but as you see in the U.S. you can still use the forms if you entice someone to forward, but in the Netherlands if I read this right you can NOT even use the forms if you entice as stated in point 2.

Something else that comes to mind, does point 4 REQUIRE you to allow them to edit the message? I would assume no. Just allow them to read and cancel the process if they do NOT like the contents.

These new regulations apply to all websites that send email invitations via tell-a-friend forms to Dutch email accounts. So it sounds like this would affect Dutch web sites and international wen sites that have Dutch visitors from what I read.

So this means then you need to either flag email addresses with .NL at the end of them or ones with Dutch postal addresses to them. Failure to comply would would be handled by the Dutch Data Protection Authority it seems.


Don't Just Send, Deliver!

Dennis Dayman

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