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Data & Marketing Commission

Data privacy complaints about non-DMA Members rise in 2021

13th January, 2022 at 10:38am

Data, privacy and quality continue to lead complaints received by the DMC,
with the number of complaints about non-DMA Members rising and DMA Members falling year-on-year

Issues around data management and privacy were the biggest concerns in 2020/21, according to the Data and Marketing Commission’s (DMC) latest Annual Report. In the year ranging from July 2020 to June 2021, the DMC reported a rise in complaints against businesses across the data and marketing sector – rising by 33% year-on-year (from 63 to 84).

However, the DMC investigated fewer complaints involving members of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) during this period – falling by 30% when compared to the previous year’s total. Member complaints amounted to a fifth of the total number of complaints (19%). 75% of these were consumer complaints and 25% were about B2B issues.

The majority of complaints relate to data, privacy and quality (64%), with contractual (18%) and customer service (18%) problems making up the remainder.

“Since the introduction of the GDPR, we have seen complaints against DMA Members gradually lessen. A key reason for this is likely down to an increasing awareness by member organisations of their obligation to be transparent, to be clear, to be respectful – subsequently more customers now recognise that their data is valued and protected,” said Amerdeep Somal, Chief Commissioner of the DMC.

The largest proportion of complaints (81%), which involved organisations that are not members of the DMA, were referred by the DMC to other statutory or self-regulatory bodies. However, in some cases, particularly where they involved consumers unable to unsubscribe from unwanted communications, the DMC did reach out to the business to provide a reminder of its legal commitments and request that it unsubscribe the individual.

Somal continues: “Treating customers with empathy, authenticity and giving them a personal experience will impact customer sentiment in a positive way and will encourage the industry to use big data and other technology tools as a force for good. Ultimately, we all must strive to improve trust in the industry and build a better experience for the customer.”

The evolving role of the DMC and industry regulators

In the coming year, the DMC aims to become an ICO accredited Independent Monitoring Body with a clear remit to enforce a new GDPR Industry Code, through the registration of organisations who sign-up to the Code and the investigation of complaints.

A key challenge for regulators this year must be to boost industry knowledge surrounding grey areas of the GDPR – the industry must receive clarity around the use of legitimate interests for marketing. Regulators also continue to receive complaints from consumers post-GDPR about service emails, which should exist to provide key service updates. But there is still confusion about whether a service email is just a masked marketing email.

“As our industry evolves so, too, must the role of regulators like the ICO and DMC. We must bring education to the forefront and share learning from our investigations to improve industry practices. This will help create an environment where businesses and marketers are encouraged to learn and increase the flow and exchange of information,” concluded Somal.

Full details on the complaints, investigations and more thoughts from the DMC’s Commissioners are available in the full Annual Report, available here:

– ENDS –

For further information contact the DMA Press Office:

James Davis, PR Manager

T: 020 7291 3375                                                         


About the Data & Marketing Commission

The Data & Marketing Commission (DMC) is the body which oversees and enforces the DMA Code.  The Code and DMC are here to give effective protection to recipients, users and practitioners of the data driven marketing sector. We aim to ensure companies observe the highest standards of integrity and trade fairly with their customers and with each other, and we do this by investigating complaints, and scrutinising data driven marketing issues and practices.

The DMC also acts as an expert panel to provide advice to the CAP Executive, the ASA Executive and the ASA Council in cases where “legitimate interests” has been put forward as a basis for processing personal data for the purpose of producing and/or distributing a marketing communication, and related matters. The DMC operates under a publicly available memorandum of understanding with CAP.

About the Data & Marketing Association

The DMA is the UK trade association for the data and marketing industry led by customer-first principles and a Code of ethics. The DMA has over 1,000 member organisations across the UK and almost a century of experience pioneering approaches in industry. Through the IDM, it continues to drive for marketing excellence through development and learning opportunities. DMA Talent’s range of initiatives is inspiring the next generation into the data and marketing industry to help meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

The DMA offers access to industry-leading events, the latest insight, advocacy, legal support and guidance. It anticipates and campaigns for the needs of the data and marketing industry through its close relationship with government and regulators. From the classroom to the boardroom, the DMA is driving the force of intelligent marketing, moving the data and marketing industry forward – for the good of marketers, businesses and most importantly, customers.