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Direct Marketing Commission - Enforcing Higher Industry Standards

Complaints at the DMC

16th October, 2013 at 09:20am

There were 106 complaints against DMA members and non-members for the four month period of January to April 2014. 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.

There were 25 consumer complaints against DMA members. 2 cases were formally adjudicated upon and 23 were resolved through informal action with the member companies involved.

There were 70 consumer complaints against non-DMA members many of which referred to other trade bodies, such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) and Trading Standards offices.
There were 11 business to business complaints, of which 9 were made against non-DMA member companies and 2 against members.

Those complaints which are resolved informally without the need for any formal action may or may not concern minor breaches of the DM Code of Practice. 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.

In one case which was informally resolved, a consumer who had entered a competition complained that she had been notified that she had won a retail voucher, and she had a screenshot which showed that this was seemingly the case. The wording in the initial notification was swiftly followed by the correct notification. However, the wording in the initial notification was unclear and she was in fact the recipient of a runner up prize. The company explained that they rarely offer runner up prizes and the required change to the template wording had been overlooked. They did, however, offer the consumer the winner’s prize and agreed and assured the Commission that future copy would be adjusted and that they would fully test any future changes when offering runner up prizes.

One of the formal adjudications undertaken related to a previous adjudication upheld by the Commission in October 2013 which had described concerns raised by TPS registered consumers in relation to calls about PPI. The Commission had formally reprimanded the company and reminded it of its obligations under the Code, and asked the company to review arrangements and provide a full report of actions taken to achieve compliance together with information on the handling of any future TPS complaints. Despite repeated reminders, this was not forthcoming and the Commission recommended to the DMA that their membership was terminated; this was undertaken.

A second case related to a DMA member where two complaints had been received from TPS registered consumers. The Commission considered whether the company was complying with rules regarding calls to those registered with TPS, whether there were issues in relation to customer service and whether the purpose of the calls were clear. The decisions were based on an analysis of the complaints and a considerable number of complaints to the TPS over the period of a year. Two breaches were upheld in relation to the clarity of their communication when consent is secured on-line, and the importance of ensuring that the purpose of a telephone call, as a form of lead generation, is made clear when contact is then made subsequent to the initial consent. The member worked closely with the Commission during the investigation and undertook a full review of its data journey and how this impacts the consumer. In the light of the assurances given the Commission reprimanded the member and reminded them of its obligations under the Code of Practice.