Although they may be less visible than web players or even SMEs, European postal operators also have concerns about the draft regulation on personal data protection being examined by the European Parliament.

Their problem is not one of having to request the consent of European citizens before using their data for commercial purposes, but of seeing limits on the prospecting techniques that can be used for direct marketing, ie advertising mail addressed personally to potential consumers.

"For the sake of technological neutrality, the same rules will apply to direct marketing and the internet," explains Jean-Paul Forceville, head of PostEurop, the association that represents European public postal operators. "But these are very different industries and realities." He adds: "We cannot reach millions of people with a single click. We send out mail that has a cost."

The Commission's initial draft had nevertheless reassured postal operators that exemptions for direct marketing would be maintained in EU legislation. Since the text has gone to the EP, however, they are concerned about a reorientation that seems to be advocated by rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens-EFA, Germany). His report will be put to the vote in the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) in late April or May.

The postal operators look poorly on the amendments proposed in Albrecht's draft report, which would prevent transfers of lists of customers to external companies and minimise data collection...

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