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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

EMCAS – Complaints about direct marketing

January 2015

In the light of a recent penalty imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office for calls about PPI claims made to registrants on the Telephone Preference Service, the Direct Marketing Association asked the Commission to consider the circumstances surrounding this ruling and, in so doing, to advise DMA on EMCAS and their continuing membership of the Association.

The Commission itself had not received complaints against EMCAS from individuals but it was clear from the ICO ruling and discussions with EMCAS that the company had been the subject of TPS complaints on a worrying scale for some time. It seemed clear, and this was reinforced by EMCAS’s own admissions and actions, that they had not been carrying out effective due diligence on their suppliers and introducers and had not taken responsibility for those providers. This behaviour had contributed to a high volume of TPS complaints over a lengthy period of time.  It had also contributed to an industry-wide problem where there is low public confidence in claims companies and high anxieties about nuisance calls.

In considering its advice to the DMA board and expressing its views on issues with claims management activity the Commission took account of a number of factors:

  • The extent to which tolerance or actual endorsement of models that stretched or breached TPS rules was an issue across the sector and that the reputation of one to one marketing and claims management businesses had been damaged by their collective actions.
  • EMCAS had clearly been party to this and that activity had been addressed by the ICO and the financial penalty imposed. EMCAS belatedly accepted their responsibility for the marketing calls made by “introducers” acting under contract for the company.
  • The Commission considered the relevance of its previous adjudications on member companies that had or had not been the subject of action by the ICO. The Commission considered the scale and nature of the alleged wrongdoing in these cases and whether the companies took appropriate mitigating action when challenged.
  • The changes EMCAS had made to its management structure, to its organisational arrangements and to how it selects and audits data suppliers and sub-contractors. EMCAS briefed the Commission on planned changes to its model of business and marketing activities.

On this basis and subject to receiving agreement from EMCAS to action on compliance and information-sharing, the Commission has told the DMA there does not seem a reason to terminate the company’s membership.

The Commission has made clear to EMCAS and to DMA that it is vital that EMCAS sees these changes through, achieving a further decline in complaint levels. To this end the Commission asked that EMCAS meet with the DMA compliance team, allowing them full access to information about their data marketing activities and those of their suppliers and introducers. The Commission has asked for a report back in six months with a full review of the remedial actions together with a report of any TPS complaints, and any future plans.