U.S. retailers to address impact of European privacy regulations during Brussels conference

"Retailers' use of consumer data is very different than what other industries might do."

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay

WASHINGTON – U.S. retailers will highlight challenges faced in complying with European privacy rules while still serving the needs of their customers as regulators meet for an international conference in Brussels next week, the National Retail Federation said today.

“In an increasingly global economy, retailers are required to comply with regulations from around the world,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Privacy is a top priority for retailers and they want to honor the privacy expectations of their customers and the laws of the countries where they live. But retailers shouldn’t have their hands tied when it comes to using technology and data to deliver the high quality of customer service that consumers demand. It’s important to find the right balance between regulations and practicality.”

Shay, other NRF executives and a dozen representatives of major U.S. retailers will hold a series of meetings with U.S. and European Union officials during the annual International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners.

On Monday, the delegation will meet with Vera Jourova, head of consumer issues for the European Commission. Retailers plan to discuss the General Data Protection Regulation, an EU measure that took effect in May that affects not only European companies but businesses from around the world that do business with European citizens. NRF and its Brussels-based counterpart EuroCommerce issued a joint paper this past spring spelling out “many questions” about how GDPR affects “critical areas” of retail operations.

“We want officials to realize that retailers’ use of consumer data is very different than what other industries might do,” Shay said. “Retailers use data to better serve their customers and improve the shopping experience, not to monetize the data itself.”

Retailers will meet later in the day at the U.S. Embassy with Mark Libby, deputy chief of the U.S. Mission to the European Union, to seek support in making EU officials aware of how GDPR affects retailers and how U.S. businesses use technology to benefit their customers.

On Tuesday, NRF and EuroCommerce will host a “fireside chat” between U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services James Sullivan and Bruno Gencarelli, head of international data flows and protection for the European Commission, on the importance of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The framework governs the transfer of consumer data between the European Union and the United States but is currently under review, and the session will address the importance of the keeping the agreement in place.

On Wednesday, NRF and EuroCommerce will hold their third annual retailer exchange, in which retail executives from both the United States and Europe will discuss GDPR, the proposed European ePrivacy Regulation, and other privacy issues. The two groups have had a multi-year collaboration and will examine what issues can be addressed going forward.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.