Guidelines 05/2020 on Consent under Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR)
Section 5.2 Withdrawal of consent
112. Withdrawal of consent is given a prominent place in the GDPR. The provisions and recitals on withdrawal of consent in the GDPR can be regarded as codification of the existing interpretation of this matter in WP29 Opinions.
113. Article 7(3) of the GDPR prescribes that the controller must ensure that consent can be withdrawn by the data subject as easy as giving consent and at any given time. The GDPR does not say that giving and withdrawing consent must always be done through the same action.
114. However, when consent is obtained via electronic means through only one mouse-click, swipe, or keystroke, data subjects must, in practice, be able to withdraw that consent equally as easily. Where consent is obtained through use of a service-specific user interface (for example, via a website, an app, a log-on account, the interface of an IoT device or by e-mail), there is no doubt a data subject must be able to withdraw consent via the same electronic interface, as switching to another interface for the sole reason of withdrawing consent would require undue effort. Furthermore, the data subject should be able to withdraw his/her consent without detriment. This means, inter alia, that a controller must make withdrawal of consent possible free of charge or without lowering service levels.
115. Example 22: A music festival sells tickets through an online ticket agent. With each online ticket sale, consent is requested in order to use contact details for marketing purposes. To indicate consent for this purpose, customers can select either No or Yes. The controller informs customers that they have the possibility to withdraw consent. To do this, they could contact a call centre on business days between 8 am and 5 pm, free of charge. The controller in this example does not comply with article 7(3) of the GDPR. Withdrawing consent in this case requires a telephone call during business hours, this is more burdensome than the one mouse-click needed for giving consent through the online ticketvendor, which is open 24/7.
116. The requirement of an easy withdrawal is described as a necessary aspect of valid consent in the GDPR. If the withdrawal right does not meet the GDPR requirements, then the consent mechanism of the controller does not comply with the GDPR. As mentioned in section 3.1 on the condition of informed consent, the controller must inform the data subject of the right to withdraw consent prior to actually giving consent, pursuant to Article 7(3) of the GDPR. Additionally, the controller must as part of the transparency obligation inform the data subjects on how to exercise their rights.
117. As a general rule, if consent is withdrawn, all data processing operations that were based on consent and took place before the withdrawal of consent – and in accordance with the GDPR – remain lawful, however, the controller must stop the processing actions concerned. If there is no other lawful basis justifying the processing (e.g. further storage) of the data, they should be deleted by the controller.
118. As mentioned earlier in these guidelines, it is very important that controllers assess the purposes for which data is actually processed and the lawful grounds on which it is based prior to collecting the data. Often companies need personal data for several purposes, and the processing is based on more than one lawful basis, e.g. customer data may be based on contract and consent. Hence, a withdrawal of consent does not mean a controller must erase data that are processed for a purpose that is based on the performance of the contract with the data subject. Controllers should therefore be clear from the outset about which purpose applies to each element of data and which lawful basis is being relied upon.
119. Controllers have an obligation to delete data that was processed on the basis of consent once that consent is withdrawn, assuming that there is no other purpose justifying the continued retention. Besides this situation, covered in Article 17 (1)(b), an individual data subject may request erasure of other data concerning him that is processed on another lawful basis, e.g. on the basis of Article 6 (1)(b). Controllers are obliged to assess whether continued processing of the data in question is appropriate, even in the absence of an erasure request by the data subject.
120. In cases where the data subject withdraws his/her consent and the controller wishes to continue to process the personal data on another lawful basis, they cannot silently migrate from consent (which is withdrawn) to this other lawful basis. Any change in the lawful basis for processing must be notified to a data subject in accordance with the information requirements in Articles 13 and 14 and under the general principle of transparency.