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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Minutes – 24th November 2015

7th January, 2016 at 10:11am


of the



Tuesday 24th November 2015
DMA, 70 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SS


George Kidd, Chief Commissioner (GK)
David Coupe, Industry Commissioner (DC)
Danny Meadows-Klue, Industry Commissioner (DM-K)
Dr Simon Davey, Independent Commissioner (SD)
Rosaleen Hubbard, Independent Commissioner (RH)

In Attendance:

Suzi Higman, Secretary, DMC (SH)
John Mitchison, Head of DMA Legal & Compliance (JM)

Mike Lordan (part)



There were no apologies for absence.

2.  APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF 15th September 2015

The Commissioners had confirmed that the Minutes were an accurate account of their last meeting.  These had now been published on-line (October 2nd 2015).


At the last meeting it had been agreed that DMA members should be made aware of the DMA/DMC message that they are responsible for the data they trade.  The principle is supported by the Code rule which asks that members take responsibility for the conduct of their suppliers and sub-contractors. GK reported that the Commission’s stance on this rule had been fed back to the DMA and JM said this would be included in the DMA’s taskforce plans for strengthening the DMA compliance process.

RH had produced a short guidance note covering the agreed criteria for deciding whether or not a member was in breach of the disrepute clause in the DMA Code.  The note had been circulated to Commissioners for comment.  It was agreed that this rule should only be applied in exceptional circumstances where it was clear that there was ‘intent’ and where the behavior was abnormal to the industry. At the last meeting it was agreed that this decision on how to apply the rule was incorporated in our formal process.  This had now been actioned and was published online.


SD reported on the latest DMA Governance Committee meeting which he had attended in place of GK.


At the last meeting GK and SH reported that two Industry Commissioners, DC and DM-K’s tenure was coming to an end on 30th June this year.  Two new replacements had now been identified and interviewed and would be commencing on 1st January 2016 subject to no objections from the DMA Board.  DM-K offered his ongoing support in an advisory capacity as and when it was required.


A formal adjudication took place during this meeting.  The case related to the role of a member’s affiliates and sub-affiliates in its email marketing campaigns and was brought to our attention by a consumer who had received unwanted emails and traced these back to the member.  The unwanted emails had not clearly identified the sender, and had utilized sender email addresses which implied legitimate companies though unrelated to the email content. Representatives from the company attended the meeting to explain their business model and answer any questions from Commissioners.

The Commissioners concluded that the member did not have sufficient transparency and visibility over its affiliates and sub-affiliates, and this had led to a lack of control over those affiliates in terms of their direct marketing activity. The complaint was upheld under rule 4.3 which asks that members must accept that in the context of the Code they are normally responsible for any action taken on their behalf by their suppliers and others.  It was agreed that a letter would be sent to the member outlining the Commissioners’ concerns together with a request that the member offers assurances that remedial action would be undertaken to ensure it does not continue to breach rule 4.3.


JM updated Commissioners on the DMA’s Compliance Taskforce meetings which were looking at ways in which the membership compliance process could be strengthened.


a. Summary of complaints – October
SH reported on the latest complaints in October.  A summary of the complaints had been distributed to the Commissioners.  One complaint had focused on a charity which had placed a consent mechanism for marketing purposes within a collection docket.  The charity had informed the Secretariat that they were currently reviewing their statements in terms of how and where they collect data in anticipation of future changes in the charity marketing sector including a move towards opt-in as opposed to opt-out mechanisms.  SH reported that the charity were to let us know when the Commission can expect to see changes and details of what actions had been taken.

b. Recent investigations
SH reported on recent investigations against a member which had been the subject of an adjudication in the Autumn. The investigations had highlighted specific issues around consent and timescales for consent in particular.  These had been fed back to both the member and the DMA given the member was currently undertaking an audit process of its direct marketing activity which was to be examined by the DMA early in the new year.

SH also reported on a recent adjudication on a member in the timeshare resale business.  The matter had been subject to appeal.  Whilst the member had not appealed within the timescales required, a decision had been taken to extend the appeal “window”.  The Commissioners sought assurance that the DMA provided adequate insurance cover were this or other cases to be pursued in the courts. Mike Lordan joined the meeting to discuss this further.

c. Responses from charities following newspaper article
The DMA and Direct Marketing Commission had written a joint letter to all those members highlighted in a recent national newspaper article which had provided details of an investigation into charities and others who allegedly passed on the personal details of a consumer.  The consumer had subsequently been contacted by many charitable and commercial businesses, and the article highlighted the issue of trading data in ways that expose vulnerable consumers.  In the letter the Commission made it clear that it had investigated other claims made by the same national newspaper in relation to the consents given for the use of personal data by third parties.  It had informed the DMA of its findings and presented these at an industry seminar.  Statutory regulators and other organisations were already undertaking investigations so the DMA and Commission had told the charities that it had decided not to proceed with investigations at this time but reserved the right to do so if it seemed appropriate.  The DMA and Commission had, however, asked for sight of any information submitted to the newspaper in response to the article.  This had now been provided and the Secretariat had copied these responses to Commissioners for their information.  GK did not think the responses required further investigation at this stage.

d. Update on recent adjudications
SH updated Commissioners on developments following recent adjudications.  One adjudication had involved a member which had not undertaken sufficient due diligence on its off-shore suppliers.  Similar issues around consent, sourcing and cleansing of data had been raised and the Commission had written to the DMA seeking their agreement to the principle that members should take responsibility for the data they trade.  The DMA had agreed with this view and were going to undertake an audit on the member early in the new year.


a. DMA activities
JM reported on recent DMA activities and updated the Commissioners on latest ICO action concerning data brokers and lead generators.

b. Governance, Preference Services & Compliance Report
SH had circulated a copy of this report to Commissioners.

c. Annual Report 2014-15
SH reported that the DMA communications department were to start work on the design of this year’s Annual Report in December.  A draft would be circulated to Commissioners for approval. DM-K suggested a visual addition to the report in the form of a selection of ‘headlines’ from media reportage this year.

Action Point – SH to circulate draft of Annual Report.

d. Sanction, test and policy
SH circulated a draft paper which tested what guidance the Commission might give to its adjudication panel in terms of the scale of sanction and when a particular conduct merits a particular response.  SH said that nothing has yet been written or published on how we reach decisions.  It was agreed that Commissioners would revert with their comments on the draft within one week.

Action Point – Commissioners to comment on draft sanctions policy.


GK recorded thanks to DM-K and DC for their support to the Commission over the last few years.


Tuesday 9th February, 2.30pm (please note the later time)
Tuesday 17th May, 10.30am
Wednesday 14th September, 10.30am
Wednesday 23rd November, 10.30am