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GDPR: SMEs call for a period of grace

15 May 2018
by UEAPME -- last modified 15 May 2018

In a joint letter to Commissioner Vera Jourova, UEAPME, EUROCHAMBRES and HOTREC ask the Commission to recommend, to Member States and to the national Data Protection Authorities, not to immediately impose fines on SMEs during the first year of application and to continue to invest in support and advice for small businesses.


All three organisations stress that they fully support the fundamental rights of EU citizens for the protection of personal data.

"Entrepreneurs care about their privacy and the privacy of others. That is why our member organisations at national, regional and sectoral level have provided a lot of information and advice during the two-year transition period to ensure compliance with the rules", said UEAPME President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller. However, a lot of the guidelines and interpretative notes of the so-called Article 29 Working Party were only issued in recent months. In addition most Member States are still not ready for the GDPR. This is creating a lot of incertitude on the interpretation of the new regulation.

"We support the idea of a unified rule of law, but one cannot expect that SMEs be fully compliant with this extremely complicated legislation right from the start if those responsible for enforcement do not agree on its interpretation," added Ms Rabmer-Koller. Therefore, the three organisations ask Commissioner Jourová to strongly recommend, to Member States and the National Data Protection Authorities, to invest in support and advice to SMEs and to commit, during the first year, to warn them in case of non-compliance and not to immediately impose fines. "This is not about undermining EU legislation, but it is proven good practice of most of the law enforcement authorities," concluded Ms Rabmer-Koller.

"Micro-enterprises and SMEs are working hard to try to understand how they should implement the regulation properly. Nevertheless, at present stage, there is no legal certainty. This means, despite being a regulation, that the legislation might be interpreted differently at national level by Member States. In order to avoid unfair practices, a period of grace of one year seems a reasonable approach", commented HOTREC President Susanne Kraus-Winkler.

"GDPR is a highly complex and important piece of EU legislation. It is also pioneering in several respects, so the eyes of the world are on the EU. This is another reason why it is crucial that we get it right, not just in terms of the legal text, but also in the way in which it is implemented and enforced. Our suggestions seem only reasonable given the delays in many Member States", argued EUROCHAMBRES President Christoph Leitl.

UEAPME is the employers' organisation representing Crafts and SMEs from the EU and accession countries at European level. UEAPME has 64 member organisations covering about 12 million enterprises with 55 million employees. UEAPME is a European Social Partner.

UEAPME - the European craft and SME employers' organisation
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