McDowall Media (National Money Savers) – complaints about direct marketing
The Direct Marketing Commission had received six complaints against this company over the last few months. Concerns had been raised in relation to calls received from National Money Savers to TPS registrants and in two cases those consumers were passed to other third parties against their wishes. The complaints were upheld in relation to TPS regulations (clauses 21.18 and 21.20); responsibility for suppliers (clause 3.15); and the requirement to comply with relevant legislation (clause 3.14).
McDowall Media provided full co-operation to the investigation and agreed that the Commission could access data recorded with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). It was found that around 1,000 complaints had been logged by TPS in the period from July 2012 to June 2013. The investigation highlighted issues around consumer consent and the ways in which failure to comply with the Code and related PECR regulations can result on complaints over unwanted calls that people register with TPS precisely to avoid.
The Commissioners concluded that the company was in breach of Code rules that prohibit calls to TPS registrants unless the company has express permission to make that call. This was not happening with data purchased from third party suppliers and there seemed to be similar questions over the degree of “opt-in” by people on McDowall Media’s own database.
Given the fact that this activity was at the very heart of McDowall Media’s business and, therefore, the high volume of calls made, the Commissioners were particularly concerned over the lack of documentation, safeguards and record-keeping of data and the call-permissions associated with it.
There were, however, strong grounds for mitigation in information sent by McDowall Media to the Commission prior to adjudication. The Commissioners believe that the actions taken or promised should bring them into Code compliance and dramatically reduce the level of complaints received.
The Commission has reprimanded McDowall Media and reminded them in the strongest terms of their obligations under the DMA Code of Practice. The Commission has made clear that it expects to see a significant reduction in the number of complaints received to the TPS. If this does not happen the Commission is likely to revert to a further investigation, possibly culminating in a more serious action. McDowall Media has been asked to review their arrangements and provide the DMC with a full report of actions taken as a result of the investigation, together with details of their handling of any outstanding or additional TPS complaints. The Commission have asked for the report on actions taken within one month and for a further review of the TPS complaint levels and handling of TPS complaints on 1st November or as soon as possible thereafter.