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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Minutes – 30th September 2014

Minutes – 30th September 2014

MINUTES

of the

DIRECT MARKETING COMMISSION

on

Tuesday 30th September
at
DMA, 70 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SS

Present:

George Kidd, Chief Commissioner
David Coupe, Industry Commissioner
Danny Meadows-Klue, Industry Commissioner

In Attendance:

Suzi Higman, Secretary, DMC
John Mitchison, Head of Preference Services & Legal and Compliance, DMA

1. WELCOME AND APOLOGIES

Martyn Percy and Rosaleen Hubbard had given apologies for absence.

2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF 29th May 2014

The Commissioners had confirmed that the Minutes were an accurate account of their last meeting. These had now been published on-line.

3. MATTERS ARISING

At the last meeting, the case for ‘mediation/adjudications by consent’ was discussed and how this type of intervention could be usefully applied to the DMC’s investigative work. To reflect this SH had produced an updated flow chart of our complaints process together with amended wording describing this intervention as a ‘future compliance plan’. The flow chart was approved by the Commissioners. The amendments had been posted on the DMC website.

SH said that the DMC website required updating. This was likely to happen in the new year with the DMA hosting the site in future. Commissioners agreed the messages and general feel should be consistent with that used in the DMA Code. DM-K suggested that whilst the site did not need a complete overhaul, it could benefit from more visual (and some video) content, incorporating case studies with colour coded charts showing examples of data journeys and providing relevant guidance to consumers.

4. CHIEF COMMISSIONER’S REPORT

GK’s report items were discussed at other points in the meeting.

5. COMPLAINTS UNDER THE DMA CODE

a. Breakdown of complaints: June/July/August 2014
SH had circulated reports for complaints in each of these months. Specific complaints which required action were discussed below.

b. Informal investigations:
SH reported on three recent investigations.

(i) The first investigation centered around a complaint against a member which had bought data from a mail order company and sold it on to a third party. The member believed it had the necessary permissions and had not sold on any data other than the complainant’s name and address details. The data had been passed down to another member company which then sold the data to a payday loans company resulting in unwanted calls and texts to the complainant.

There were now unanswerable questions over whether the original data capture had come with consent for the data to be shared. It was clear, however, that the data was still current and had been validated by recent transactions. Based on information available and on the limited address data involved it did not appear the member company buying the data had acted in breach of the Code. Nor, it seemed had the second member company that then bought and added the data to their own broader market analysis. It did appear, thereafter, that the loan company that acquired the data did add a contact number and did call the complainant in breach of that person’s TPS registered wish not to be called.

The member had assured the Secretariat that it would be revisiting its supplier’s permissions process in relation to data protection; revisiting its exclusion policies with clients in terms of excluding pay day loan companies in future; and auditing the use of its client/resellers’ data to ensure the use complies with their agreements.

The Commissioners did not think that the member was negligent but reflected on the fact that the member involved at the penultimate part of the supply chain knowingly sold the complainant’s data to the pay day loan business. It was agreed that the Secretariat would ask about their policy in terms of how they can be assured that data sold is then used responsibly.

The Commissioners thought the use of a flow chart of the data journey and contractual chain was a very useful aid to understanding and might generally become a useful way of presenting issues to stakeholders online.

Action Point – Secretariat to write to both members involved and the complainant.

(ii) A second investigation had related to a single complaint from a gentleman who said he had received hundreds of direct marketing calls from a DMA member since August 2013. He had said that despite requests for the calls to stop they had continued to contact him via either their own call centres or by sub-contracted call centres. The contact was always about a claim for a PPI management agreement. The complainant in question was taking the matter to court in October. The member had assured the Secretariat that they did not source the complainant’s data nor did they sell it on. They said they had received him as a lead through an affiliate on one occasion and he was blocked from their call list after that. They also said that they had not rung him at any time. However, they did admit that some of their affiliates had attempted transfer to them after his request to be blocked, despite having access to their DNC and TPS files. As the matter is going to court in October, we had asked the member that we are informed of the outcome and in the meantime, we asked the company for further information on their business model. The member had written to the DMC and offered to meet. The Commissioners agreed that adjudication was not appropriate whilst the court case was ongoing, but that there were concerns around their business model and affiliate system and we would meet with the member company in November after the court hearing to gather further information.

Action Point – Secretariat to arrange meeting in November.

(iii) A third investigation related to a member that operates membership and discounts clubs for consumers. This latest complaint was from a lady whose bank account had been debited and she did not know that she had signed up to a club. The member had been unable to provide a copy of the original script used to sign up the complainant over the telephone in 2012. They also did not promote this particular club any longer and all their sign-ups were now undertaken on-line. When the complainant made contact with the member to complain, there was ongoing confusion about how she was signed up and welcomed to the club. The Secretariat found that her membership had also risen substantially in the second year and the complainant had received no warning of this. Previous complaints had been received against this company which had resulted in changes to their customer service procedures but on receipt of this further complaint, the case had been taken to a formal stage and GK and SH had a conference call with the compliance manager to gather further information. Following the conference call it was agreed that the Secretariat would ask the member to make the necessary changes to their yearly auto-renewal process so that they issued reminder notices to all those customers whose annual subscriptions were due as well as reminders in writing to those customers who membership fees were due to rise. The member had agreed to this.

The Commissioners welcomed the assurances offered. They decided it was right, however to complete the case formally given the principle involved in relation to notification of price changes, particularly in relation to contracts with an auto-renewal element. It was agreed we would therefore write to the company to progress a formal investigation leading to adjudication.

Action Point – Secretariat to proceed with process for adjudication.

c. Update on last meeting’s cases:

(i) An adjudication at the start of the year which related to unwanted calls to TPS registrants had culminated in termination of a DMA membership. SH reported that the company concerned had been the recipient of an ICO fine and the MoJ were to launch its own investigation.

(i) At the last meeting Commissioners had discussed a case where three consumers who were survey panelists had complained that on nearly reaching the minimum payment threshold for completing surveys, they ceased to receive further surveys. The case had been informally resolved but the Commissioners had agreed that a letter should be sent to the company seeking further clarity in terms of the statistics they had provided to the Secretariat. The member had since explained its panel recruitment and survey processes and assured the DMC that it had taken action in addressing the customer service issues which had been previously highlighted by the Secretariat. No formal action was deemed necessary at this time unless many new and/or different complaints were received.

(ii) The Commissioners had previously discussed a case where a complainant had been rung by a financial services company which had told him he had had a loan declined and was therefore suitable for a trust deed. The company informed the complainant that they had sourced his details from a member company which conducted lifestyle surveys. The complainant had given permission to be contacted by third parties. However, two datasets had been provided to the financial services company, and there had been a subsequent crossover in the use of the scripts so that the complainant was given incorrect information when they called him. It was agreed that the Secretariat would contact the financial services company and inform them that the matter had been brought to the Commission’s attention that this error may have affected a number of consumers and asking that the situation does not recur. This had been undertaken and the financial company had assured the Secretariat that they had implemented further training with their staff to ensure they use correct scripts for particular data sets in future. They also informed the Secretariat that they have reverted to all their data providers to ensure the highest standards of records are provided and that all numbers are opted in and TPS checked.

6. NEW DMA CODE/DMA WEBSITE

a. Application of new Code
It was agreed that the Secretariat would apply the new Code to all new complaints except in limited and specific circumstances that may require the old Code to be applied.

b. Letters to DMC
SH had circulated letters sent to GK in response to a recent mailing to parliament and media contacts about the new DMA Code. The ICO’s concerns around the definition of unsolicited/solicited were discussed.

c. DMA Website blog – Commissioner input
SH informed Commissioners about the blog section on the DMA’s new website. Commissioners could submit their own blogs. SH would arrange for details on how to submit a blog to be circulated to all. As an example, SH said that guidance on marketing by political parties could be useful in the light of a recent complaint received.

Action Point – SH to ask the DMA communications department to send details of how to submit a blog to Commissioners.

7. LETTER TO ICO
At the last meeting it had been agreed that GK would send a letter to the ICO proposing a discussion on how and when we can share data on the status of cases. We had not yet received a response but following a reminder it was hoped that this would be provided shortly.

8. DMC ANNUAL REPORT

It was agreed that the time cycle for this year’s Annual Report could be amended to run for a 15 month period, 1 April 2013 – 30 June 2014 so that complaints data and DMC news was as up to date as possible in the report. Next year’s report could then commence a new annual cycle starting 1st July 2014.

a) Key messages on nuisance calls
GK had circulated his latest document on key messages for data suppliers, buyers and consumers which he wished to incorporate into the DMC Annual Report. Commissioners agreed to give their comments on this as soon as possible.

b) Commissioner input
It was suggested that this year the Annual Report incorporated one substantial article for the Annual Report rather than a Commissioner Q&A section. DM-K agreed to provide a piece on the Internet of Things for the Report.

Action Points – DM-K to provide article on The Internet of Things.
- Commissioners to comment/approve GK’s key’s key messages on nuisance calls.
- SH to send a draft of the Annual Report to Commissioners for comment.

9. GENERAL MATTERS

a. DMA activities
b. Governance, Preference Services & Compliance Report

JM reported on DMA activities including recent developments in relation to the Your Choice scheme for unaddressed mail. The Governance, Preference Services & Compliance Report had been circulated to Commissioners.

10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

SH suggested that the DMC Xmas lunch takes place after the next meeting on 27th November. All agreed.

SH asked Commissioners to provide any expenses within six months after the date of the expense.

11. FUTURE MEETING DATES 2014

Thursday 27th November, 10.30am followed by the DMC Xmas lunch.