Op-Ed: Well intentioned data privacy bill misses the mark

Vermont Retail & Grocers Association & Co-Signers

H.121, a data privacy bill passed by the legislature and vetoed by Governor Scott, is a well-intentioned attempt to protect consumers’ personal data that misses the mark. In its current form, this bill will create major problems for Vermont’s businesses, consumers, and economy. Our organizations strongly support comprehensive data privacy legislation, but H.121 goes far beyond the measures adopted in neighboring states like Connecticut and New Hampshire, which we support as workable models. H.121 goes far beyond these measures and would make it harder for businesses to serve their Vermont customers than to serve those in other states. 

Unfortunately, when Vermont businesses tried to provide input throughout this policy-making process, they were routinely dismissed by some in the legislature as misinformed or as being influenced by big tech. This is an inaccurate characterization. Further, it has had a chilling effect on the ability of Vermont businesses to engage in the legislative process for fear of being villainized and of ramifications for their businesses. 

This bill will put Vermont businesses at a serious disadvantage, making them less competitive than businesses in other states, raising their marketing and compliance costs, and exposing them to potential legal battles. H.121, as passed by the Legislature, is unworkable. It threatens the survival of many local businesses and would put a serious dent in the Vermont economy.

H.121 could also spell the end of loyalty and other programs that many Vermonters benefit from. These programs, like airline miles, hotel and credit card points, multi-mountain ski passes, savings on gasoline, and more, are all at risk. Under the new law, it would be too difficult, expensive, and risky for businesses to continue offering these programs and benefits to Vermonters.

Unfortunately, H.121 is not balanced legislation. Vermont should join our neighboring states by adopting a comprehensive privacy law that creates regional alignment. This would protect consumers and hold bad actors responsible while helping businesses to comply. H.121 as drafted, does not accomplish this. The 105-page document is rife with provisions that lack clarity and will lead to unintended consequences.

We urge legislators to support Governor Scott’s veto of H.121 and return next year to work on creating a better bill. Vermont can have strong privacy laws that protect consumers without hurting local businesses. Let’s find a solution that works for everyone.

Signed,

Associated Industries of Vermont

Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Heating and Cooling Contractors of Vermont

Vermont Association of Broadcasters

Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association

Vermont Independent Restaurants

Vermont Retail and Grocers Association

Vermont Ski Areas Association

Vermont Technology Alliance

Vermont Vehicle and Automotive Distributors Association