Phone directories in Italy: subscribers’ rights, telecom operators’ duties and marketing operators’ restrictions

06 January 2005

Debora Stella

New rules on phone directories will be soon coming into force in Italy under section 12 of EU Directive 2002/58/CE, as implemented by section 129 of the Italian Data Protection Code.

Subscribers’ rights - Before the next issue of 2005 phone directories in Italy (mid-2005), telecom operators providing their services in Italy will request that all existing subscribers of Italian phone lines (including holders of pre-paid mobile SIM cards) fill in and return the model form approved by the Italian Authorities on Telecom and Data Protection. Subscribers will indicate on the form whether:

  • they want to be listed in phone directories

  • they want to have all or part of their data disclosed

  • they consent to marketing by phone, postal mail, e-mail, fax, SMS or MMS messages

The new rules consider circumstances where the line/card is permanently used by an individual other than the subscriber. In this event and upon the user’s request, the information provided in the form and disclosed in the directory will relate to the user rather than to the subscriber.

The form has to be accompanied by a detailed information notice. The notice must comply with the model approved by the Italian Authority on Data Protection and must be returned to the relevant telecom operator within 60 days. If no form is received from the subscribers of fixed lines, telecom operators may rely on the choices made by the subscriber in the past, e.g. consent given in the past to receive marketing e-mails or calls or identification of the data to be disclosed in the directories. However, this is not the case where no form is received from mobile subscribers; telecom operators may not rely on any previous choice made by mobile subscribers and so may not insert the relevant data in the unique database mentioned below.

Telecom operators’ duties – Telecom operators must contact all their existing subscribers and ensure that they receive the form and notice by the end of January 2005 (new subscribers from 1 February 2005).

Once the completed forms are returned to telecom operators and not later than the end of May 2005, telecom operators will register in a unique database the information obtained - or the existing information for fixed line subscribers where no form is received.

The database will be operative from the beginning of August 2005 and will be the sole reference for all telecom operators and information services providers. It will be managed by a third party, and thanks to technical interconnections, will always be up-to-date. Further specifics of this database and of the modalities to access it are currently under evaluation by telecom operators and the competent Authorities.

Marketing operators - What’s the impact for marketing operators?

Needless-to-say that the new rules will have a strong impact on marketing activities as, until now, data extracted from phone directories had been considered free from rules on consent for marketing. Under the new rules, phone directories can no longer be used as an indiscriminate source of data for marketing purposes.

In fact, new phone directories will contain specific marks for each data entry showing if the relevant subscriber gave consent to be contacted for promotional and marketing purposes, i.e. an envelope for consent to postal mail marketing, a phone for telemarketing.

In the absence of any mark, marketing could not be lawfully carried out by simply relying on the fact that records are publicly available. Therefore, a specific informed consent will have to be sought in other ways.

Subscribers will, no doubt, appreciate the effects of the new rules as “wild” marketing activities carried out through random post, e-mails, phone calls etc., e.g. faxes, SMS, MMS, are likely to be drastically limited.