Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Data & Marketing Commission | Enforcing Higher Industry Standards



Behavioural Advertising 28th January, 2010

What is Behavioural Advertising?

Online behavioural advertising (also known as interest-based advertising) is a way of serving advertisements on the websites you visit and making them more relevant to you and your interests. Shared interests are grouped together based upon previous web browsing activity and web users are then served advertising which matches their shared interests. In this way, advertising can be made as relevant and useful as possible.

How Does it Work?

Imagine you are planning a holiday to Rome. You visit a website’s section on Rome and view a few articles about places to stay and visit. On a future visit online, while reading an article about your favourite football team, you see an advertisement for a 2-for-1 dinner in Rome or an offer for discounted car hire in Rome. You receive these specially tailored adverts because you, and other people like you, have shown an interest in Rome. This can enhance your web experience by making the most of the technology only available on the internet – helping reduce the number of ads that aren’t of interest to you.

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DMC Quarterly Newsletter 20th January, 2010

Foreword from the Chairman Matti Alderson:

Matti Alderson

Happy New Year and welcome to the Direct Marketing Commission’s first email newsletter for 2010.

Once again, we have seen a significant level of compliance in the industry during the last quarter. Just under half of all the complaints received by our Directorate have been made against organisations that are not members of the DMA, but we continue to find that most companies are willing to respond to us, take remedial action and are ultimately prepared to ensure that professional standards
doudoune canada goose are observed across the industry.

During the coming year, we will be working to consolidate the progress we have made since the Commission’s inception in 2008 to increase our profile among consumers and the industry in general. Our website will be developed further so that we can engage in the important issues affecting direct marketing regulation. We have a wealth of experience among the board of Commissioners which will be invaluable in working alongside other relevant organisations and the Direct Marketing Association to ensure that our remit, particularly within the sector of digital technology, is fully understood, supported and clear to both consumers and industry members.

Industry News

Government intervenes to prevent unsolicited light bulbs

The Government has intervened to ban unsolicited mail-outs of millions of low energy light bulbs from utility providers. The ban was imposed because of concerns that the mailouts were wasteful and that homes were not necessarily using all the bulbs being sent. Utility providers had instigated the mailings as part of a campaign to meet targets under a household energy-cutting scheme. The gas and electricity regulator Ofgem said it had expressed concern with npower about the practice of unsolicited mail-shots. canada goose solde

OFT and SOCA warn against false lotteries

The OFT and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) are warning the public to be on their guard against a new Jamaican-based lottery scam which has already seen some UK residents lose thousands of pounds. Fraudulent telemarketers based in Jamaica are making unsolicited phone calls to consumers telling them they have won a sum of up to £2.5 million in a lottery or sweepstake. The fraudsters often pretend to be lawyers, bank officials, customs officers or lottery representatives to try and convince consumers that their prize is genuine. However, to ‘release’ their winnings, victims are told they must send money to pay for taxes, processing fees, insurance or customs duties. Victims receive repeated calls for further money, and in some cases have suffered threats of violence, arrest and removal to Jamaica if they do not pay up.

Counterfeit websites shut down by Met

The Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) announced in December that it had taken down 1,219 websites purporting to sell designer goods. The websites claimed to sell items ranging from Ugg boots and Tiffany & Co jewellery to GHD hair straighteners. Police said the fact the sites had “” web addresses meant innocent British shoppers were duped into making what appeared to be bargain purchases, but they received either counterfeit products or nothing at all.

Law passed on Consent for Cookies

The European Parliament has passed a package of reforms to the Telecoms Directive which includes requiring consumers to consent to the use of cookies. The UK government plans to consult on implementation into UK law during late spring and summer 2010 and the new legislation will come into effect in the UK around June 2011.

The issue of how consumers can consent is being hotly debated with conflicting opinions on whether this means consumers having to opt-in for the use of cookies to be legal. The DMC will continue to monitor this.

IC calls for jail time to stop trade in unlawful personal information

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has called for custodial sentences for breaches of s55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. s55 creates a criminal offence in respect of the unlawful trade in personal information. His call follows news that the Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating a mobile telephone company and a credit reference agency, where in both cases personal information was acquired illegally.

Companies are reminded that they should ensure that staff are properly trained and that appropriate IT security policies are in place to prevent unauthorised access to personal information.

Complaints trends

Complaints Data

Of the complaints received by the DMC in 2009, 59 per cent were against DMA members.

The company sector that received most complaints was Home Shopping with 36 per cent of the total. The next most commonly complained about group of companies were those from the financial sector (9%).

The industry practice most frequently subject to complaint was ‘account issues’ (19%).The second most common area of complaint (11%) fell under the heading of unwanted mailings. Similarly, 10 per cent of complaints related to issues of ‘unwanted emails’ that were unsolicited or did not give the option to ‘unsubscribe’.

Interview: Revd. Canon Professor Martyn Percy

Martyn Percy

Your background is quite unusual in that you began your career working as a publisher and academic. What was your motivation to move to work in self-regulation?

To be honest it comes from a general interest in public life. I had previously worked as a panel assessor for an adoption agency and from an early stage in my career I realised that I enjoyed working in ethically complex areas. Although they may sound removed, my academic work actually led directly to a role in self-regulation. Before I joined the ASA, I had been researching the prevalence of religious images in secular advertising and at that point the ASA had been receiving a run of complaints on the secular appropriation of religious images. My familiarity with the topic and background academic work led directly to my subsequent appointment as a director.

Although its critics note that it is exploitable and is weaker that some forms of top down, publicly funded systems, when it works well self-regulation can engage and encourage industries to take responsibility in a way that no other model can.

As an independent member of the DMC Board, you do not work in the Direct Marketing industry. How important is it to have independent Commissioners at the DMC and what different perspectives can they bring?

Competent self-regulators will always choose a broad range of people to adjudicate on standards. In many cases the public are actually surprised at the diversity of directors’ experience. You never want to be in a situation where a directorate is only comprised of people or are ‘tapped up’ from the industry they are supposed to be regulating. Self-regulation needs to be publicly accountable and, as such, needs to involve people from many different aspects of public life. From a personal perspective, as I said earlier, I see my experience and interest in more complex ethical areas and standards as key to my role. My responsibility is to help make sense of these areas on behalf of others.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that DM and self-regulation will face in 2010 and what would your advice be to the industry?

In its early years, DM largely involved a simple process of printing thousands of leaflets and getting them through doors. Naturally, technology has changed all of that but with its many advantages have also come challenges. Technology has the effect of closing up areas that have hitherto been neighbours. If you take the analogy of a terraced street where each house represents a different marketing discipline, technology is removing all the dividing walls and marketers can now walk effortlessly between each one. With this comes a problem of ownership and accountability. From the consumer’s perspective, ‘who do I complain to?’ and from the industry perspective, ‘whose problem is it?’

The challenge we face in 2010 is clarity of expertise over the territory that we’re immediately responsible for. All self-regulating bodies and industries need to work constructively and collaboratively to ensure that standards are maintained and consumers are well served.

Complaints case study:

Email Marketing Email Marketing

The Commission received a complaint from a consumer who had tried, unsuccessfully, to unsubscribe from marketing emails over ten times. He had clicked on the unsubscribe link in the email and it took him to a page to unsubscribe. He had then typed in his email address and then it told him his email address would be removed. However, he continued to receive the emails every week.

The company stated that there had been an error linking back to the suppression list. This had been resolved and tested to ensure it worked. Following investigation, the DMC discovered that 160k users had been affected by the error, but that the company in question had now changed their process of testing and would be using a completely new system, which has added checks included before any bulletins are sent live. They had not received further complaints possibly due to the fact they always give alternative ways to contact them should one method fail. They are now offering better security, controls and checks to prevent these issues recurring. The consumer was fully unsubscribed.

The DMC reminded the company of their obligations in relation to the Direct Marketing Code of Practice which requires direct marketers to operate and maintain an in-house suppression file; where a recipient asks not to receive commercial communications they must suppress that recipient’s data from the marketing database as soon as possible.

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