01 August 1998

THE LONG AWAITED EC draft directive on the distance selling of financial services has fi-nally been published, causing consternation among European financial directsellers. The main Distance Selling Directive, which became law two years ago, specifically excluded direct selling of financial services because of the complexity of the issues involved. However, the new draft directive tackles these issues in a manner akin to a bull in a china shop! It proposes the abolition of ‘inertia selling’, which many marketers infer to mean adoption of an opt-in principle rather than the present opt-out mechanism, along with a ban on targeting cold prospects. The draft regulations aim at ensuring consumer protection throughout the EC, whilst encour-aging new forms of trading, such as the Internet. Says EC consumer commissioner Emma Bonino: ‘[The di-rective] will safeguard the interests of consumers ... and so help to build confidence in the use of these new techniques.’ DMA government and legal affairs director Colin Fricker is less enthusiastic: ‘Clearly, the DMA does not like the reference to prior consent. We’ll have to fight that one.’ Credit card issuer RBS Advanta is similarly concerned: ‘In our business cold direct marketing, if carried out in a targeted way, is benefiting con-sumers as we can make offers that we would not be able to afford using other more expensive communication channels, argues marketing manager Mark Austin.