DMC COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROCESS
The Commission will adjudicate on all direct marketing complaints against DMA members as long as the content of the complaint falls under the Direct Marketing Code of Practice. If the complaint is not covered by the Code, it will be referred to another relevant organisation such as the ASA, Trading Standards Authority, Information Commissioner, OFT or Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. We aim to acknowledge complaints within two working days and to complete cases involving investigation and adjudication within three months, but we expect informally resolved cases to be closed in a shorter timeframe. In the case of formal investigations, member representations may be made, if relevant, as part of the evidence gathering process or just prior to adjudication.
In disputes between members or where a complaint is brought against a member organisation by a non-member, we will seek to resolve the case informally, or when appropriate, adjudicate within the provisions of the Code. In the case of contractual disputes, we will assess the member based on fair and reasonable behaviour and if there is no easily identifiable breach of the Code then both parties will be informed and advised to pursue an alternative resolution mechanism.
We may look at and follow up with statutory agencies in very serious threats of misconduct involving companies not within membership of the DMA, if they pose a threat to the public and to trust in direct marketing.
Cases may result in some form of apology or assurance to the Commission. In the most serious cases, membership of the DMA may be suspended or terminated and matters referred to statutory regulators.
CRITERIA FOR JUDGEMENT
All complaints to the Secretariat are reported to the Commission in a monthly breakdown report.
Those cases that the Secretariat consider should be ‘formally investigated’ (that is, to undergo a formal process of investigation and adjudication) are presented with relevant paperwork to the Commission for adjudication.
‘Informally resolved’ complaints are investigated and resolved to the satisfaction of the Secretariat of the Commission with no further action deemed necessary.
If Commissioners require information on any complaint or if they deem any cases to be more appropriate for adjudication (ie ‘formally investigated’), then they inform the Secretariat as soon as possible so that a formal process can be undertaken.
Complaints ‘informally resolved’ by the Secretariat may include:
a. minor customer service issues eg non-receipt of goods, unsolicited goods, faulty goods, poor quality goods, delivery or collection problems, poor advice/customer service; account errors.
b. consumer misinterpretation or misunderstanding of their own or the company’s obligation.
c. minor data issues eg unwanted emails, unwanted mail, incorrect personal details, technical problems – issues that are not regularly reported against one specific company or do not affect large numbers of consumers.
d. business to busines cases where there is no easily identifiable breach (for example, contractual disputes) – alternative dispute resolution mechanisms may be advised.
If there is a minor breach of the Code then a ‘reminder of obligation’ may be issued which serves as a reminder to the company of their obligations under the code. These reminders are made in particular to those companies who do not appear sufficiently aware of the Code’s requirements or if it is not clear as to whether or not there has been a breach.
Complaints ‘formally investigated’ ie adjudicated by the Commission may include:
a. serious breaches of the Code which might result in damaging the public image of direct marketing: serious breaches of legislation; mis-selling of goods; misleading marketing material.
b. repeated complaints against one company which indicates a particular concern eg inefficient customer service, poor data processing, silent calls, difficulty unsubscribing from emails, unwanted mail. Or the company may simply be experiencing an increasing level of complaints. Not every ‘individual complaint’ that shows evidence of a Code breach is necessarily upheld; any number of complaints can be upheld at one time.
c. minor breaches of the Code which may affect large numbers of consumers eg wording used in marketing material which has been misconstrued. Even if there is only one complaint, many consumers who do not complain could be affected.
d. cases where the company fails to respond to the Secretariat.
Please note the above scores awarded in the Risk Register Scale of Seriousness are examples only.
Detail of Complaint Process
a. Complaint received via telephone, email or post. All complaints must be made in writing with relevant correspondence and evidence. The DMC cannot become involved in matters of financial compensation.
b. The Secretariat acknowledges receipt of the complaint via email or letter within two days. The Secretariat informs the complainant that the member company may write to them directly with a response to their complaint, but that the Secretariat themselves will also need to be assured that the complaint is resolved to the Commission’s satisfaction. Any further details required from the complainant must be received within ten working days.
c. A letter/email is sent to the company with a copy of the complainant’s correspondence. The Secretariat seeks a response within ten working days in accordance with the Code. The Secretariat may ask the company to write directly to the complainant with a copy to Commission. If the Secretariat does not receive a response within ten working days a reminder is issued. Companies are informed that under the Code a response is expected within this timescale. Some lenience may be given if a detailed investigation has to be undertaken by the company or the primary contacts are away. Not responding to a request from the Secretariat is in breach of the Code.
d. Details of the complaint are input on to the Database. The Secretariat inputs the name, address details and a summary of the complaint.
[* Business to Business Complaints: In the case of business to business complaints the Secretariat would not generally ask the company to write directly to the complainant - material from both parties is collected]
e. When the company’s response is received the Secretariat sends a letter/email to the complainant. If the Secretariat finds it satisfactory, a copy is sent with a covering letter to the consumer; the Secretariat will also ask the consumer to make further contact with the Commission if they have any concerns. Depending on the nature of the complaint further information will be offered as to any action that may be taken.
f. Letter/email to company from the Secretariat. The Secretariat does not necessarily respond again to the company in question, but if there is a minor breach of the Code then a ’reminder of obligation’ may be issued which serves as a reminder to the company of their obligations under the Code. These reminders are made in particular to those companies who do not appear sufficiently aware of the Code’s requirements or in some cases, where it is unclear whether or not there has been a breach. The Secretariat will ask for the company’s assurance that the Code will be adhered to in future.
g. Details of the direct marketer’s response input on to the database. The Secretariat inputs details of the company’s response/‘reminder of obligation’ if required/whether the complaint has been upheld or not upheld (if the case has been presented for adjudication by the Board of the Commission).
The Secretariat will write to the company, informing them that the case is to be adjudicated formally by the Commission and that they have ten working days to add any further information to the casework. Following the Commission’s adjudication, letters are sent by post to the complainant and to the company in question stating whether or not the complaint has been upheld. If the complaint is upheld, the company may be asked to provide a written undertaking that they will, in future, comply with the Code. Other sanctions may be imposed depending on the nature of the complaint. The Secretariat aim to achieve final adjudication within three months.
Production of monthly reports
A breakdown of monthly complaints is produced for each Commission meeting.
A ‘Monthly Report’ of activities is sent to Commissioners at the start of each month.
All formally investigated complaints are placed on the DMC website, comprising a short description of the case and the relevant Code requirement together with the outcome of the investigation. A synopsis of complaints informally resolved by the Secretariat is updated on the website each month. The Annual Report contains examples of cases to give direct marketers, the public and others an outline of the Commission’s work and how companies achieve compliance with the Code.