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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Minutes 29th May 2014

13th June, 2014 at 12:15pm

MINUTES

of the

DIRECT MARKETING COMMISSION

on

Thursday 29th May
at
DMA, 70 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SS

Present:

George Kidd, Chief Commissioner
David Coupe, Industry Commissioner
Rosaleen Hubbard, Independent Commissioner
Danny Meadows-Klue, Industry Commissioner
Martyn Percy, Independent Commissioner

In Attendance:

Suzi Higman, Secretary, DMC
John Mitchison, Head of Preference Services & Legal and Compliance, DMA
James Milligan, DMA Solicitor (in part)

1. WELCOME AND APOLOGIES

There were no apologies for absence.

2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF 10th February 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’ or “adjudications by consent” was discussed and how this type of intervention could be usefully applied to the Commission’s investigative work. The Secretariat had agreed to look at alternative terms to describe the type of support we were offering and how this could be fitted into our complaints process. SH had produced a new DMC flow chart of our processes together with amended wording and would circulate this to Commissioners for approval. DM-K had also suggested that the Secretariat could add to the flow-chart the average percentage of complaints that apply to each of the stages of the complaints process.

Action Point – Secretariat to circulate flow chart and wording to Commissioners.

The Commissioners discussed the issues of companies which had been expelled from DMA membership but that did not subsequently remove the DMA logo from their website. This was the case following a recent expulsion. JM said he was chasing the company concerned. DM-K suggested that a page on the DMA website of those improperly using the DMA logo would be helpful. JM said he would raise the matter with Chris Combemale.

GK raised the issue of continuing complaints post adjudications, querying whether more could be done about companies who, post expulsion, continue to produce complaints to the Secretariat.

It was agreed that a link would be placed on our website as a Consumer Alert – this would list companies who had been expelled from membership or who have left the DMA following an adjudication and were continuing to receive complaints. It would also give consumers information on where to refer their complaints against companies who were no longer in DMA membership.

Action Point – SH to set up new Consumer Alerts page on the DMC website and to ensure arrangements are in place to inform the relevant external regulators of such cases and of our referral plans.

GK raised the issue of sharing case information with the ICO and vice versa. We talked about how and when we could share details of our investigations. It was agreed that we would write to the ICO, giving them information about our recent adjudications and proposing a discussion on how and when we can share data on the status of cases.

Action Point – SH to draft letter to ICO in relation to sharing information about cases.

Commissioners discussed the need for care when dealing with complaints relating to a member where there had been a recent adjudication and where the member had been reminded of their obligations and had given undertakings to comply, perhaps through process changes. It was not thought appropriate always to open new investigations over complaints related to the specific issue adjudicated upon. There were double jeopardy and natural justice considerations. The Commission had, however, to be alert to new issues surfacing or to evidence that the reforms promised had not been seen through.

4. CHIEF COMMISSIONER’S REPORT

GK reported on a recent Governance Committee meeting and circulated minutes from that meeting to the Commissioners for their information.

GK circulated recent amendments to the revised Code of Practice.

GK discussed the ongoing issue of lead generation companies and the data supply chain, and how this impacts the consumer. It was important that consumers were given clear information about where their data was going to be used and how. JM stressed that it was best practice for a telemarketing company to tell consumers up front where they had gathered their information. GK said the new Code guidance would be likely to reflect these issues of transparency and clarity.

5. COMPLAINTS UNDER THE DMA CODE OF PRACTICE

a. Breakdown of complaints – February to April 2014
SH presented Commissioners with a breakdown of complaints between February and April 2014.

SH reported on continuing complaints against one DMA member which had been the subject of an adjudication a few months previously. No breaches had been found for two complaints, one complaint had not been pursued further but the member had admitted fault for one of the cases. SH said that any ongoing complaints would be carefully monitored.

b. Cases for discussion
(i) SH informed Commissioners about a recent 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 agreed that a letter should be sent to the company stating that there was clearly an issue in that more than one complainant had the same concern and seeking further clarity in terms of the statistics they had provided to the Secretariat. We would also explain that the matter may be of interest to Trading Standards and that we would take relevant advice in that regard.

Action Point – SH to draft a letter to the member seeking further clarification.

(ii) SH informed Commissioners about a second case which related to a time-share company and allegations made by a TPS registered complainant who said he had been cold-called and that he had not given his consent. The member maintained that they called the complainant as a result of a web enquiry. The complainant disputed this and other aspects of the member’s response in relation to TPS screening and customer service. A clear breakdown in communications was apparent from the material shared and the comments made. There were uncertainties over the cleansing of data against TPS but no evidence of regular or widespread problems in terms of complaints.

It was agreed that a letter should be issued to the member clearly outlining the range of issues raised by the complainant and make clear the member company’s obligations under the DMA Code of Practice. The complainant would be informed of this action and the case closed.

Action Point – SH to draft letters to both parties.

(iii) SH informed Commissioners about a third case where a complainant had been rung by a financial services company where they stated 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. The complainant had, however, 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.

Action Point – SH to contact the financial company.

c. Update on previous adjudication 1
SH had circulated papers to the Commissioners which referred to a previous adjudication which had culminated in termination of membership. The company had sent copies of letter which they claimed to have sent to the DMC post adjudication but these letters had not been received. The DMA wrote to the company to inform them that these letters had not been received and that the decision to terminate membership still stands. The company had not yet removed the DMA logo from their website and JM had contacted them again to request removal.

d. Update on previous adjudication 2
SH had circulated papers on a previous adjudication where the member had asked to see the DMC’s website adjudication piece in advance of online publication. The Secretariat agreed to this, and the member had asked for a slight amendment to the copy. The Commissioners had agreed that the copy did not need amending. The adjudication was now live on the DMC website.

6. UPDATE ON DMA CODE

a. Key messages on nuisance calls:
It was agreed that the DMC would produce five key messages on nuisance calls which could be promoted to the public, data buyers and users and sit alongside the DMA best practice guidance with the revised Code of Practice.

Action Point – SH to circulate GK’s draft key message to Commissioners for amendment and comment.

b. ICO DMA guidance on consent/optin:
James Milligan attended the meeting at this point to update Commissioners on the new ICO guidance on consent, third party opt-in and timescales for consent. He agreed to send a link to Commissioners to the new ICO guidance section on selling and buying lists.

Action Point – James Milligan to send link to new ICO guidance

7. THE INTERNET OF THINGS

DM-K gave a presentation on the Internet of Things – “uniquely, identifiable objects and their visual representation in an internet like structure” and how they can impact winning, losing and decision making. The presentation looked at the consequence and complexities of data sharing in this new digital structure.

8. GENERAL MATTERS

Governance: Compliance, Preference Services & Accreditation Report
A report had been circulated to the Commissioners.

9. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

There was no other business.

10. FUTURE MEETING DATES 2014

Tuesday 30th September, 10.30am
Thursday 27th November, 10.30am