Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data & Marketing Commission


Adjudications and Informally Resolved Complaints

Latest update on complaints

Between July 2022 and June 2023, the DMC recorded just 33 complaints against businesses in the data-driven marketing sector. The DMC’s Secretariat investigated six consumer and business-to-business complaints involving members and 27 complaints against non-members. The Secretariat referred, where necessary, non-member complaints to other statutory or self-regulatory bodies and in some cases, particularly for concerns from consumers who were unable to unsubscribe from unwanted emails, the Secretariat contacted businesses that lie outside of membership to inform them of their legal commitments and request that they unsubscribe the individual’s email address. There was one formal adjudication necessary this year.

Issues raised by consumers and businesses included the following areas of concern:   unwanted emails, mailings and telephone calls, privacy & data protection concerns, contractual disputes and claims of unclean data.

The Secretariat referred, where necessary, non-member complaints to other statutory or self-regulatory bodies and in some cases, particularly for concerns from consumers who were unable to unsubscribe from
unwanted emails, the Secretariat made contact with a business that lay outside of membership to inform it of its legal commitments and request that it unsubscribes the individual’s email address.

Informal cases:

Those complaints which are resolved informally without the need for any formal action may or may not concern minor breaches of the DMA Code.  They will generally concern issues that are do not affect large numbers of consumers, where the possible harm is negligible and where the companies involved demonstrate their willingness to put things right. However, on occasions we formally remind a company of its obligations to adhere to the Code.  This may occur where there are minor breaches, where this fact is accepted by the member company, but where a formal investigation would be disproportionate and where the Secretariat thinks it is right but enough to make sure the company is fully aware of its obligations for the future.  The Secretariat must be satisfied that appropriate remedial action has been taken, and that the matter is not serious enough for a formal investigation. These decisions by the Secretariat are based on criteria set by the Commission and are reported to Commissioners to ensure the right balance is being struck.

Case  Study –

One complainant contacted the Commission because he had received a letter from a mail order company addressed to his deceased mother-in-law.  The letter had promoted a personalised watch to ‘my daughter’ and had caused his wife considerable upset and distress.

The complainant told us that on his mother-in-law’s death, he and his wife had previously registered with two deceased files in order to prevent any further mail being sent. 

After he received the unwanted letter, the complainant contacted the member to request that his mother-in-law’s details were removed from their mailing list but was advised that they were unable to do so as he wasn’t the account holder.  He was advised that they required a copy of his mother-in-law’s death certificate before they were able to remove her details from their mailing list.  

The member informed the Commission that it was not their policy to ask for a death certificate in order to remove someone from a mailing list, but that they do operate a policy to ask for a copy of the death certificate in two scenarios – if there are outstanding monies so that they can ensure no further correspondence is sent to chase the account; and if there is a third party trying to access the account.  In this case, the member later recognised that neither of these reasons applied and the agent should not have insisted on the provision of a death certificate. The member reprimanded the agent. 

The member was reminded of its obligations under code rule 4.8 which asks members to provide prompt, efficient and courteous service – and to ensure they have in place adequate administrative procedures and resources to achieve this.  The Commission reminded the member of these because a) the agent had incorrectly asked for a death certificate to remove the deceased individual from further marketing b) the agent had not escalated the complaint to ensure that a manager or supervisor called the complainant back c) the agent had not passed the request on that the complainant had made to be contacted on his mobile phone with the unfortunate outcome that the deceased’s husband was contacted instead. 

The member informed us that it has now re-communicated its policy to all staff.

The member had screened the deceased’s record against the Mailing Preference Services file, though the complainant’s mother-in-law had not been registered with this file.  The member were advised to liaise with the DMA compliance team who would be likely to advise screening against two deceased files as well as the MPS (deceased) file.  Whilst this does not cover a hundred per cent of deceased records, it would cover more than if relying on only one file.

Formal Cases – latest adjudications below.  If you would like to be added to a list to receive DMC updates including latest adjudications please email

We Breathe Media – Complaints about direct marketing

This case looked at concerns raised by a complainant who was in receipt of a number of unwanted emails. The member runs an affiliate network and the affiliate had sent out emails frequently to the complainant promoting different brands.  It appeared that only one of the brands involved was connected to the member’s network. The […]

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The Bradford Exchange – complaints about direct marketing

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 […]

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