Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data & Marketing Commission | Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

The Bradford Exchange – complaints about direct marketing

10th August, 2023 at 09:25am

The DMC investigated a complaint from the daughter of an elderly and vulnerable lady who had received a coin she said she did not order.  The complainant’s mother had returned the coin to the member but her account was still passed to debt collectors.  A number of unsuccessful attempts had been made to contact the member’s customer service by phone and the elderly lady was bewildered and fearful as a result of her account being passed to debt collector agencies.

Correspondence from the complainant highlighted an inadequacy and lack of resource in the member’s customer service process and this was recognised and accepted by the Bradford Exchange which acknowledged that its performance in terms of customer care fell short of fair and reasonable.  The member agreed that given the situation, the vulnerable and elderly lady should not have been asked to return the coin, and there should have been an easily accessible phone system in place to take calls of concern about the return process and debt collection issues. 

The Board’s investigation identified concerns that an internet led customer service was not always appropriate for those elderly and vulnerable consumers who are not computer literate, and the Board thought that a dedicated returns line or at the very least a process, allowing a consumer to speak to a person to return goods or to make a complaint about the return process, should be easily accessible to those who do not have digital access. Overall, the DMC did not think that the member had taken particular care when dealing with those who were vulnerable and there seemed to be a disparity between clear tracking and audit trails in place around customer sales versus inadequate audit trails around customer care.

The DMC considered that the Bradford Exchange was in breach of the following rules set out in the DMA Code:

2.4 Members must not send goods or provide services for which payment is requested to any consumer without first having received an instruction to supply such goods or services.

Members must not demand that any consumer either pay for or return unsolicited products, except for substitute products.

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

4.8 Members must at all times give prompt, efficient and courteous service to customers – and must ensure they have in place adequate administrative procedures and resources to achieve this.

The Board decision was informed by the member’s willingness to implement changes to bring them into compliance and reduce the risk of further complaints and it took into consideration its apology to the complainant when made aware of the issues.  The member told the Board that a new customer service platform was to be in place in the Autumn, and whilst this would be internet led, it would, in the member’s view, free up resource for a more readily accessible telephone system for those who do not have digital access. 

The DMC Board asked that the member revert back in the Autumn with a full Review and Report – this would help the member and the Board to have more visibility of its processes and identify any ongoing improvements. The Report was to include a full action plan, data journey, training programme, risk assessment and appropriate compliance changes as necessary to any ongoing progress. 

Update: The Bradford Exchange provided a report and review. The company have now resigned membership of the DMA.