Franchise Businesses Must Prepare for the EU's GDPR
Before the internet, you didn't ever have to worry about customers who weren't nearby, but today, customers can come from all over the world. As a franchise business owner, customers well outside of your community and even your country can be a solid revenue source, but they are also under the regulations and rules of their home country, and you have to comply with these rules as well.
In many cases, the regulations of other developed countries are fairly similar to consumer protection laws in the US; you only have to worry about things like the ingredients in your food products or where your products are sourced. However, a market bloc will sometimes introduce sweeping regulations that have a direct impact on the dynamic between small business owners and their customers, and that is exactly the case with the GDPR in the European Union (EU).
What is the GDPR?
The official name is the General Data Protection Regulation, and was implemented in the EU starting May 25, 2018. This set of laws is one of most comprehensive consumer protection regulations the world has ever seen, and it will apply to the over half a billion people in the EU. While the regulations won't apply to franchise businesses in the US directly, they will apply to each customer from the EU who interacts with a US-based business in any way.
These regulations have numerous rules that are meant to protect customers and shield their personal data, the most pressing of which are outlined below.
- Customers are entitled to have all and any data collected on them deleted at any given time.
- Any company that has data on a citizen of the EU is legally liable if said data is breached.
- Customers are entitled to have their data transferred between differing parties or changed at any given time.
The new rules replace the previous regulations covering this area and are intended to unify the varying laws that are currently in force across the EU's 28 member states. Under these new rules, you can be held responsible legally for any violations related to customers based in the EU. They don't have to buy anything from you; if your website is collecting cookies on users or stores any information, you are held accountable to the new regulations.
Compliance is reportedly very low across the board right now, and that is a scary notion because the fines associated with these regulations are significant. A single data breach could result in your franchise facing up to $2 million in fines, and that could very well sink your chosen franchise opportunity.
While you probably didn't give much thought to foreign regulations when you first identified your ideal franchise opportunity, this is one set of laws that will require your focus. If you haven't moved on this already, you can start by making one person in your company responsible for bringing your franchise location into compliance. Consider speaking to a legal expert who fully understands the rules; this person can train you and you can pass that knowledge on to employees.
Having a compliance plan in place as soon as possible is crucial, so get started on your process today.
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