The Department of Trade & Industry has outraged business leaders over the lack of consultation time for forthcoming legislation affecting corporate e-mail systems and employees' personal data.
The outcry follows the DTI's publication of a consultation paper on new regulations in the wake of the recently-passed Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act.
According to the Alliance for Electronic Business, companies have been given only three and a half weeks, in the middle of the holiday season, to respond to the consultation paper on access to employees' e-mail and telephone calls.
The deadline for responses is August 25, which has left the alliance fuming at the DTI's poor timing. Nigel Hickson, the CBI's spokesman for electronic commerce, said the DTI could have published the draft regulations much earlier in the year.
The regulations concern a less-publicised element of the controversial RIP Act - the rights of companies to monitor e-mails and phone calls.
The RIP Act says that if businesses want to intercept communications they need "reasonable grounds" to believe that callers or e-mailers consented to the interception. The new draft regulations list exceptions to this rule under which managers could legally read employees' e-mail. These include the checking of compliance, to detect crime, and to prevent viruses and hacking.
Hickson said the forthcoming publication of a code of conduct from the data protection commissioner on employee data later this year is adding to the problem. "If we are going to have to respond to the DTI, it would be good to have an idea what the data protection commissioner is going to say in October."
A position paper is available on the data protection commissioner's Web http://wood.ccta.gov.uk/dpr/dpdoc.nsf site