Proposed EU rules to govern consumer data use in the electronic communications industry could hamper innovation and economic growth in the sector, according to ETNO and the GSMA.

The two trade bodies claimed suggested updates to ePrivacy rules could also prevent European businesses such as telcos from using data to improve customer experience.

ePrivacy rules were first introduced in 2002 to govern the use of consumer data by electronics communications providers.

They are currently being updated by the EU as part of its Digital Single Market reforms, to keep up with changes in how digital services are evolving.

The update will add new provisions for privacy of customer metadata and extend their scope to OTT providers.

It is not yet clear when the updates will come into force.

However, responding to a draft report by MEP Marju Lauristin that clarified the scope of the ePrivacy regulation, ETNO and the GSMA called for greater flexibility for telcos to “use data responsibly”.

The current provisions of the ePrivacy regulation for the use of metadata are “too restrictive” and “overly focused on consent”, according to the two trade bodies.

Specifically, they urged EU lawmakers to align the rules with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU rules that will govern all electronic data usage in the EU by companies from May 2018.

The joint statement highlighted that while obtaining user consent for processing of data is stipulated as a requirement in the ePrivacy regulation, the

GDPR permits other grounds for processing data other than consent which they argued could be added to the ePrivacy rules.

They also said tests specified in the GDPR for the validity of processing data could be applied in ePrivacy rules.

They added that the existence of two sets of rules was creating uncertainty among consumers.

Afke Schaart, Vice-President Europe at the GSMA, said consumer trust in the digital ecosystem was “critical”.

“The more flexible, risk based approach in the GDPR already provides privacy protection for the same type of data, while creating an environment that will enable innovation," Schaart said.

“The lack of flexibility in the proposed law will distort competition and hinder the industry’s ability to develop new mobile services for European consumers.”

Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO, added: “The ePrivacy regulation should not undo what the GDPR achieved.

“An overly-restrictive approach to ePrivacy would target and discriminate one single sector.

“This would undermine European innovation without meaningfully increasing the level of protection of our citizens.”

Read more: GDPR means network operators must become much more than transporters of data

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