The advice comes as a new data protection bill was unveiled by the government last week, designed to transfer the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into UK law on May 25, 2018.
The law will give consumers increased control over their data and requires auctioneers and dealers to have proactive consent from private buyers in order to market to them.
“Art market businesses need to obtain unambiguous consent to market to consumers now, if they don’t already have that consent,” said Philip James, a partner at law firm Sheridans.
“Consent needs to be demonstrated by a statement or clear, affirmative action. Our advice is to organise for this now, as there will be a less liberal framework after May.”
Ian De Freitas, partner at Farrer & Co, added: “Opt-out consents cannot be relied upon after May 2018. [Businesses] need to go back to their customer base to re-consent this data.”
Fines for firms that flout the law will increase from the current £500,000 to €20m (£18.1m) or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is highest.
GDPR and its UK counterpart replace the current Data Protection Act 1998.
Auctioneers contacted by ATG said they already adhere to the opt-in principle.
Stephen Whittaker, managing director of Fellows Auctioneers, said: “We invite registrants on our website to sign up for any subsequent communications or email alerts. This opt-in system allows them to decide on which topics they want to receive information and they can opt out at any time.”
Stephan Ludwig, CEO of Forum Auctions, said email marketing to its website registrants is on an opt-in basis, though emails to the trade are opt-out, as current law and the new GDPR rules apply only to consumers.
James described the UK bill’s publication last week as “a wake-up call” to start GDPR transformation immediately as the law “requires significant cultural organisational change”.
GDPR also requires firms to delete personal information if the customer requests this, though James says firms should keep data required by other regulations and government bodies, such as HMRC.
ATG will publish a guide to GDPR in a forthcoming issue.
Sworders case study: 'We've worked to get ahead of new data law'
When Essex auctioneer Sworders was planning its new website, which launched last week, data collection was a key consideration.
“We looked closely at the process of registration for email marketing so we could get ahead of the GDPR changes,” said Emma McCann, Sworders digital marketing executive.
Site registrants must now actively opt in to marketing emails – data that then gets loaded into Sworders’ marketing database for promotional email.
Users can differentiate the content of marketing emails by areas of interest, such as Asian art and decorative arts, with unsubscribe buttons visible on each communication.
“We have made segmentation our priority and avoid sending marketing campaigns to our full database,” McCann said.
Within the strictures of GDPR, Sworders is keen to enrich its email marketing database. “We’re promoting the perks that come with online registration, such as the ability to create wish lists, lot alerts and complete online visibility of your bid and invoice history - paid and unpaid,” McCann said.
Single customer view
The firm’s two customer databases – marketing and transactional – are separate and managed by different teams at Sworders. The longer-term goal is to merge them for a single customer view, which will require inviting customers on the transactional file to opt-in to marketing communications.”