Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data & Marketing Commission | Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

DMC figures show sustained compliance levels in Direct Marketing but complaints about mail and database companies on the rise

16th February, 2009 at 13:24pm

28th April 2009:  The Direct Marketing Commission (DMC), an independent self-regulatory body for the UK direct marketing industry, today announces the results of its 2009 Q1 Quarterly Complaints Index, the report and analysis of complaints it received between December 2008 and March 2009. The index shows a continued trend for high industry compliance with self-regulatory rules but also reveals a rise in the number complaints made about direct mail and against database companies.

As was typical of the last quarter, of the 88 complaints received by the DMC in this period, the majority (54) were investigated and resolved swiftly and informally without the need for any formal action. These complaints concerned only minor breaches of the DM Code of Practice – issues that are not regularly reported against one specific company or do not affect large numbers of consumers – where the companies involved demonstrated their willingness to take expedient remedial action.  The remaining 35 complaints were referred to the Board of Commissioners or to partner regulatory and self-regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office and The Office of Fair Trading.

Data-related complaints on the rise

Following the trend from the previous quarter, most of the complaints made to the Commission were about the home shopping industry. The next most commonly complained about group of companies were those in the DM industry itself with mailing, telemarketing, survey and data companies coming making up 15 per cent of the total. The biggest rise in this instance however, was the number of complaints against database companies. This rose from 6 per cent in Q4 2008 to 9 per cent this quarter.

Matti Alderson, chairman of the DMC commented: “Although we’ve seen an increase  in data-related complaints this quarter, we haven’t concluded that they’re the result of deliberate malpractice. They’ve resulted from technical issues or consumer misunderstanding in relation to the opt-in or unsubscribe processes. Direct marketers need to be diligent about following the industry’s best practice guidelines on the transparent gathering of data.”

“Regardless of the channel, marketers should be alerting consumers about the purpose for which their data is to be used, and giving the appropriate privacy notices and simple instructions on how to unsubscribe. We would also urge marketers to include clear contact details so that consumers can get in touch with them to clarify anything they don’t understand. The majority of complaints that the DMC receives could have been resolved at this stage if marketers had followed the right steps.”

Payment issues and unwanted direct mail source of most grievances

As was also typical of the last quarter, the industry practice most frequently subject to complaint came under the heading of customer ‘account issues’. These complaints concerned issues of payment including unclear invoices or additional charges, such as extra costs for late payment. In total 15 per cent of all complaints received by the DMC concerned financial accounts or statements – a six percent reduction on the peak Christmas period in 2008.

The second most common area of complaint (14 per cent) fell under the heading of ‘unwanted mail’; postal marketing sent to consumers that was unsolicited – a 4 per cent  rise on the last quarter. Similarly, 13 per cent of complaints related to issues of ‘unwanted emails’, also a rise of four per cent on the last quarter.

Poor telephone service was the fourth most common subject of complaints (6 per cent of the total). These complaints typically involved incidents where the telephone manner of the company representative was unhelpful or rude or when customers were kept on hold for an unreasonable period of time.

Complaints on non-DMA members

Of the 59 complaints received about companies that were members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 72 related to client members while 16 related to DM suppliers. Of the supplier complaints, 8 pertained to database and list companies, 3 to door to door, 2 to mailing and the remaining 2 related to telemarketing.

The DMC also received 29 complaints relating to non-DMA members: seventeen of these complaints were outside the DMC’s investigative remit and were referred to other regulatory and self-regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority, Information Commissioner’s Office and The Office of Fair Trading. The remainder are  pending investigation or have been resolved by the directorate.

Alderson commented: “The results of the Quarterly Complaints Index reveal an encouraging picture of compliance in the industry in the face of trying economic conditions. The rise in complaints against database companies is something that we are monitoring closely but we are confident that these relate to isolated incidents and are not indicative of a more general decline in data security and handling processes. We look forward to seeing a continued trend of compliance and encourage any company or individual looking for best practice advice to contact us.”

Complaint Index Data Methodology:

The statistics and data quoted in this release are based on the tabulated analysis of the incoming complaints received by the Direct Marketing Commission between the months of December to March 2009.

Please note that the DMC provides effective protection to recipients, users and practitioners of direct marketing in those areas not already covered by other co/self regulatory bodies, such as the ASA. When the DMC receives incoming complaints outside its remit, these are referred to the appropriate organisation.

Data has been tabulated according to the following categories:

 ·         Direct Marketing Discipline: (account issues, advertisements, door to door, faulty goods, fictitious lists, fraudulent behaviour, incorrect information, membership obligation, membership commitment issues, misleading information, misleading literature, misleading advertising, non-delivery of goods, non-return of goods, postage and packing issues, pros response, poor sales service, poor staff service, poor telephone service, non- receipt of refunds, rude or unhelpful staff, silent calls, unclean data, unwanted email, unsolicited goods, unwanted marketing calls, unwanted mail, unwanted SMS)

 ·         Sector of complaint subject: (broadcast, database, directory publishing, email marketing, energy, financial services, home shopping, lifestyle, mobile telephony, postal services, publishing, retail, sport, telemarketing, telephone, teleshopping, various)

 ·         DMA Member and non-member complaints

 ·         B2B and Consumer complaints

 ·         Informally and formally resolved complaints

 ·         Complaint processing and referrals