by Renee

3 min reading time

GDPR and data privacy: protect customer data the right way


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In a world where data seems to be the new gold, safeguarding customer information forms the pivotal bridge between trust and business success. For European e-commerce sellers trading internationally within the EU, this isn’t just an optional effort; it’s a strict requirement. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), imposes strict rules on companies. However, it’s essentially Europe’s way of saying: “Hey, our citizens’ data is important and must be protected!” But how can you comply with this? And why would you want to? 


What is GDPR anyway?

A quick refresher: The GDPR is a regulation introduced by the European Union in 2018. The goal? Protect personal data and return control of that data to the citizen through a uniform European law.


Key Aspects of GDPR

  • Right to access and rectification: customers can ask what data you have about them and can request adjustments.
  • Right to data erasure: also known as the ‘right to be forgotten.’
  • Data portability: customers can request their data in a standard format.
  • Consent: it should be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.


Why should you care?

You might be wondering: “Why should I, as an e-commerce seller, invest time and resources in GDPR compliance?” Firstly, because you undoubtedly want the best for your customers and your brand. Transparency and building trust with your clients are essential for successful business in today’s world. Customers value companies that respect and protect their personal data. Moreover, the fines for non-compliance with GDPR are hefty: they can amount to as much as €20 million or 4% of your global annual turnover, depending on which is higher. A misstep could cost you not only your customers’ trust but also a significant sum of money. In short, GDPR compliance is both an ethical and business-savvy move.


How do you comply with GDPR?

  • Know your data:

Take inventory of all personal data you collect so you know what data you possess and understand why you have a legitimate reason for each data set you collect (or not).

  • Secure your data: 

Use up-to-date encryption technologies for data storage and transfer. Ensure your team understands the basic principles of data security and train them accordingly.

  • Communicate transparently: 

Provide a clear and understandable privacy policy and proactively inform customers about how you use their data.

  • Have a plan in case of data breaches: 

Know how to respond if something goes wrong and promptly inform affected customers and authorities.


Common Misconceptions

  • GDPR only applies to companies within the EU.

This is a widespread misconception. In reality, GDPR applies to any company, anywhere in the world, that processes data of EU citizens. So even if your company is based outside the EU but sells to EU customers, you need to comply with GDPR.

  • A standard privacy statement is sufficient.

Some companies believe that merely copying and pasting a standard privacy statement protects them from GDPR’s nuances and demands. It’s crucial to be proactive and ensure the privacy statement truly reflects how a company handles personal data.

  • Fines are rarely given.

Some companies take a risky stance, thinking the EU won’t levy fines. The truth is multiple fines have been issued, with some being quite hefty. This emphasizes that non-compliance can have severe financial consequences.

  • Consent is the only legal basis for data processing.

While consent is a vital component of GDPR, it’s just one of the legal bases for data processing. There are other grounds, such as contract execution or legitimate interests, which can be used in certain situations.


Conclusion: not just an obligation, but an opportunity

Adhering to GDPR and other data privacy regulations isn’t just a bureaucratic chore. It’s an opportunity to build trust with your customers and position yourself as an ethical and responsible brand. Therefore, protecting customer data isn’t merely an obligation; it’s a crucial business strategy in today’s digital landscape!

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Yonis Brander

VAT consultant

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