Complex EU data rules hindering data-driven business models, survey finds

Some 63% of GCs say data regulation is too confusing, according to Osborne Clarke and ECLA study

More than two thirds of general counsel in Europe say complex data rules are preventing their organisations from embracing data-driven business models, according to a new study by Osborne Clarke and the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA).

The report – ‘Data-Driven Business Models: the role of legal teams in delivering success’ – found that 67% of GCs believe the legal and regulatory framework around data is the biggest obstacle to implementing such business models. A further 68% say the regulatory framework is too complex, while 63% say it is too confusing for purpose. Only 11% say it is well-structured. Almost four in 10 respondents (38%) said cybersecurity is also an obstacle.

Nick Johnson, head of digitalisation at Osborne Clarke, said: “We see a growing awareness by legal teams of the need for data-related skill-sets that go beyond data privacy – and of the gathering storm of new data legislation.”

He added: “These can be blind-spots for a company's board, and in-house legal teams may need to work hard to explain their concerns and demonstrate the need for action.”

While more than half of European businesses (61%) already offer data-driven products and services, only 26% of GCs said their organisation’s board have expertise on data-driven models.

Johnson said companies that empower their legal teams to lead on planning and rolling out data-driven business models could have more success given that the legal function is better placed to see the bigger picture and drive the changes needed for new data initiatives.

The report also found that only 36% of European businesses have a data strategy in place, while only 47% think about the ethical and reputational angles of their data use.

Jonathan Marsh, ECLA’s president, said: “With data collection and utilisation becoming an increasing priority, legal departments have become responsible for devising processes that enable businesses to leverage insights from data, while respecting consumer laws and norms. Now, more than ever, a well-functioning legal department has become a cornerstone for ensuring long-term corporate viability.”

The ECLA surveyed 400 GCs across the continent in seven major business sectors including energy and utilities, retail and consumer, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, real estate and infrastructure, tech, media and communications, and transport and automotive.

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