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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data Locator Group – complaints about direct marketing

February 2017

This investigation related to complaints received from two individuals whose TPS registered numbers were contacted by DLG to undertake a survey for lead generation purposes.  DLG had obtained the details from two off-shore call centres who were themselves carrying out lead generation surveys for a number of clients including DLG.

These call centres were, in turn, using data provided by other third parties. DLG could not provide the Commission with evidence that they had satisfied themselves that their call-centre partners had the consents necessary to be calling people registered with the TPS.

In this case these seemingly improper calls did result in some of the people called taking part in surveys conducted by the call-centres and giving some form of consent to marketing or survey/lead-generation calls from DLG and others. DLG took the view this last act gave them clearance to call TPS registrants on the basis they had a consent to do so. Calling TPS registrants when consent has not been given is wrong.

In the cases investigated, the offshore suppliers’ call scripts listed sponsor names at the end of the calls – in one case the list was within a pre-recorded message.  Recordings at the end of the call gave listeners no assured or straightforward mechanism for deciding who the call-recipient did or did not want to hear from. The Commission rejected the idea that a willingness to take lifestyle survey calls ending with a recording of all those sponsoring the survey in search of prospective business could, in effect, be taken as consent to any and all  sponsors.  On this interpretation, we thought that the consent mechanism for DLG to make subsequent calls to these TPS registrants was inadequate.

The Commission thought there was a greater risk that UK rules may not be followed when using off-shore suppliers and that this greater risk should be a consideration when purchasing data from different sources.  The Commission did not think the member had satisfied itself adequately as to the source of the data and the mechanics for securing consent and that if they could not satisfy themselves, the Commission thought they should have applied a TPS filter on the basis that they could not be confident that this had been done by others.

The Commission was also concerned that the suppliers’ consent mechanisms were vague, with one call centre using different brand names to call the complainant and the supplier scripts in both cases listing DLG as one of the sponsors of the survey call under one trading name (surveys.co.uk) but DLG subsequently calling under another trading name (Consumer Lifestyles). The Commission thought this was confusing to consumers.  The Commission found breaches of the following provisions of the DMA Code:

3.11 When buying or renting personal data, members must satisfy themselves that the data has been properly sourced, permissioned and cleaned.

4.3 Members must accept that in the context of this Code they are normally responsible for any action (including the content of commercial communications) taken on their behalf by their staff, sales agents, agencies, one-to-one marketing suppliers and others.

The Commission did take into account, however, that DLG had acknowledged the need to make further changes and had moved in January 2017 to arrangements under which it would  carry out TPS screening against any lists supplied by call centres where a DLG brand is named in sponsor lists in end of call recordings.

The Commission strongly reminded DLG of its obligations under the DMA Code and have shared its findings with the DMA to highlight the issues of accountability and control of sub-contractors by members and the issue of ‘end of call’ consents.