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Complaints about data and privacy still dominate 2018

Issues around data, privacy and its accuracy are the biggest concerns for consumers in 2018, according to the DM Commission’s Annual Report. In a year that saw the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force, the DM Commission reported a marked reduction in complaints to the Commission against businesses in the direct marketing sector – from over 200 in 2017 to just over 100 this year.

The Commission investigated 27 cases involving members of the DMA in 2018. Of these, 83% related to data, privacy and quality (up from 69% last year), with the remaining complaints split between customer service (14%) and contractual (3%) issues. The Commission referred 76 complaints against non-member organisations to other relevant statutory or self-regulatory bodies, but also reached out to the businesses involved to inform them of the complaints, remind them of their legal and regulatory duties and ask them to address the consumers’ concerns.

Over the course of the year, the Commission Board decided it was necessary to conduct formal investigations into two businesses, finding one in breach of the DMA Code. Both of these cases were looked at against the DMA Code and the guidance in place at the time of the incidents reported, so prior to the onset of GDPR in May 2018.

George Kidd, Chief Commissioner of the DM Commission, said: “This has been quite a year for anyone and everyone involved in the marketing data lifecycle. The GDPR has put direct marketing in the spotlight as never before. The question now is ‘Has this made a difference?’ My sense is for most yes and for some no. Today most businesses understand the importance of their customer relationships and are conscious of the impact on their brands of not abiding by the new laws.”

Kidd continues: “Sadly, there is still a dreadful minority whose whole purpose in life seems to be to ‘spam and scam’, who misrepresent themselves, mislead those they target and have no regard for the law, except perhaps if the changes really do expose them to tougher action. The GDPR should give state regulators the power to focus on those organisations that spam and scam by intent.”

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About the Direct Marketing Commission (DM Commission)
The Direct Marketing Commission (DMC) manages (accepts and hears) complaints made against the activities of Direct Marketing Association (DMA) members in relation to the DMA Code and considers emerging issues arising from complaints to contribute advice and support to the DMA in enabling higher professional standards.

The DMC is the body which enforces the DMA Code and forms part of, and is funded by, the Association and the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (ASBOF). The DMA Code and DMC are established to give effective protection to recipients, users and practitioners of one-to-one marketing, ensuring that companies observe high standards of integrity and trade fairly with their customers and with each other. This is achieved through the investigation of complaints, direct marketing issues and practices. The DMC and DMA have also recognised the potential value of shared research or other action to build marketing understanding, awareness of industry standards and compliance.

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