Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data & Marketing Commission

Minutes 26th September 2011

Minutes 26th September 2011


of the


Monday 26th September 2011
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8SS


Present:   George Kidd, Chief Commissioner;  David Coupe,   Martyn Percy,   Michelle Peters
 In Attendance:   Mike Lordan, Chief of Operations; Richard Evans, Compliance & Legal Services Manager; Suzi Higman, DMC Secretariat

Apologies were received from Danny Meadows-Klue.  Scott Logie, DMA Chairman was also unable to attend but would be available for the next meeting on 30th November.


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


GK discussed matters raised at the last meeting – all actions to be taken had been progressed.

SH agreed to circulate meeting dates for 2012 as soon as possible.  It was also agreed that dates for a Xmas lunch this year would be circulated.

The Commissioners had noted recent complaints received against a former DMA member.  Following an earlier adjudication and DMA sanction approval, the company had been suspended from membership but now wished to be reinstated as members.  RE reported that the DMA compliance department was to undertake a formal compliance visit later this year. Although the company were not currently members the DMA had requested that the DMC Secretariat informally investigate any new complaints against them.  It was considered that this would be beneficial to both the DMA and the company in question who would then be made aware of any ongoing issues and given an opportunity to rectify any problems. The Commissioners agreed that the DMC Secretariat could informally investigate future complaints against the company in question at the present time.

This led to discussion on what involvement, if any, the DMC should have following sanctions of ‘suspension’ or ‘expulsion’. The Commissioners thought the distinction, while narrow, had value in the message sent. Suspension was thought appropriate in cases where there seemed scope for corrective action and a return to compliance, and expulsion when actions seemed willful and damaging to consumers and trust in DM and the shared standards of DMA members.  It was agreed that any decisions taken should be allocated on a case by case basis. 

Action Point:  Secretariat to circulate meeting dates and Xmas lunch.


GK reported on the recent DMA Compliance Seminar at which he presented on the role of the DMC.  This led to discussion on the merits of the Code and how the DMC’s core code principles, the three ‘R’s (respectful, reliable, responsible) could be helpfully used by the DMA in their messages to industry and in the communication of a Code message which encompasses what outcomes the DMA is trying to achieve. It was agreed in discussion that there was a need in any regulatory regime to balance the advantages of an outcomes-based approach with precision/prescription where a requirement was considered absolute.  The DMA communications department had been made aware of the principles.


a) Breakdown of complaints
SH reported on the breakdown of complaints for May to August this year.  In particular it was noted that there were a large number of non-member complaints, particularly in August, which related to consumers who were unable to unsubscribe from unwanted emails.  SH reported that these complaints were referred to an appropriate body, ie ASA or ICO – this led to discussion on the extent of investigations taken by other organisations.

SH reported that DM-K had offered to write a guidance piece for the DMC website on the issue of unsubscribing from unwanted emails.

MP pointed out that The Financial Ombudsman (FOS) was a body to which the Secretariat could usefully refer appropriate complainants, particularly those consumers who have paid by credit card or by PayPal.    The FOS also had powers to award compensation.  SH would provide a link from the DMC website to this organisation.

Action Point:  Secretariat to provide website link to the Financial Ombudsman

b) Formal complaint – respective roles of DMA/DMC post adjudication – update
SH reported on a recent business to business complaint against a company on which the DMC had already passed a formal adjudication.  The complaint had been received around the same time as the formal adjudication had been passed, and as the new complaint did not feature different or greater breaches of the Code, the matter was informally resolved.  The company had been advised to reach a settlement fairly and reasonably with the complainant and informed that it was critical they implement the remedial actions taken as outlined in their report following the adjudication.  They had been formally reminded of their obligations under the Code.

c)  Formal adjudication – DMA expulsion
SH reported that following a recent formal adjudication, the DMA had approved the recommended sanction of expulsion and this had now been implemented.  The company had been informed and the DMA communications department had issued a press release. The DMC website would provide a link to the press release on its adjudications page.  It was also reported that one of the trade press would be running the story.


Suzanne Lewis presented on issues facing the data industry, and gave an insight into how the industry works and its processes.  The industry was described as a ‘village community’ where all the companies know each other and feed back information on those in the community to each other. This information-sharing and possible changes in commercial approach extended to DMC adjudications. Commissioners discussed the process of supply chains, and the effect of online media on the data industry. There were concerns that the economics of mass direct marketing using e-mail or other digital tools was a threat to public trust. Indiscriminate marketing at next to zero cost risked leading to a wild-west situation, particularly if it seemed that the statutory regulator had limited capacity for compliance work or had other responsibilities of a higher priority.

The issue of client expectations was raised and the importance of educating buyers to ask the right questions before committing to a purchase of data. The DMA’s List & Insert Forum were to examine specific issues including the importance of due diligence procedures within the industry and these issues would be shared with both member and non-member companies.  Suzanne agreed to report on progress made by the List & Insert Forum.

7.   DOOR TO DOOR REVIEW – update

This review had now reached closure and the report sent to Mike Lordan, Chief of Operations and Chris Combemale, Executive Director.  GK requested DMA feedback to the report.


Following MPercy’s paper on Ethics and Enforcement in Self Regulation and the way we differentiate between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power, MPercy and GK reported on the benefits of ‘soft-power’ questions which could encourage companies to reflect on their behaviour, and how these could be helpfully utilised when conducting an investigation.  SH would consider applying relevant ‘soft’ questions where appropriate during a case investigation.


GK presented his report on Testing Strength in Self-Regulation which had been driven by recent events in the press and media in general and the role of a regulator as a result of those events.  The Commissioners considered how well the DMA/DMC model would stand up to scrutiny if a similar situation gave them front line media attention.

The meeting noted progress in terms of processes for case-handing and adjudications. It recognised the challenge in resolving individual complaints and disputes and looking as a regulator at actions that might pose a broad risk to customers and the market. It identified a number of areas where the DMC/DMA arrangements might be strengthened. These included the DMC’s role in relation to complaints received against non-members, the risk and impact of non-compliance in the digital space, the form of the DMA Code and ways in which the DMC should contribute to Code work

It was agreed GK should to write to the DMA Chairman highlighting and prioritising issues and making proposals for addressing these in partnership.

10. ANNUAL REPORT – update

SH reported that the DMC Annual Report had now been finalised.  A soft-copy would be sent to the DMA membership, and hard-copies sent to relevant organizations with a covering letter from GK.

Action Point:  Secretariat to liaise with DMA communications to ensure soft-copy report sent to members and hard-copies printed and sent to relevant organisations.


a) DMA Activities
ML reported on the latest developments at the DMA, including the issue of unsolicited SMS texts; the record number of new members to the DMA so far this year; and future funding for the DMC.

b) Preference Services, Compliance & Accreditation Report
A Compliance and Accreditation report had been circulated.


This date was confirmed as being:

Wednesday 30th November, 10.30am at the DMA offices.