The research industry is right to step up against nuisance calls

The research industry is right to step up against nuisance calls, as steps should be taken to prevent damage to the sector. 

Mindi Chahal

Complaints about nuisance calls and spam texts are on the up, according to figures from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO says it received 161,720 complaints in the year to the end of March, a 4 per cent increase on the 155,425 reports the year before. 

In response to the growing issue, the Market Research Society (MRS) has launched a hotline to combat the practice of selling under the guise of research known as ‘sugging’, and fundraising under the guise of market research, referred to as ‘frugging’. 

The hotline enables organisations and members of the public to report unsolicited calls that contravene the MRS Code of Conduct.

As the UK regulator and professional body for the market research sector, MRS is actively trying to address the growing prevalence of traders and organisations using the guise of research as a means of generating sales or fundraising. 

A study by regulator Ofcom into nuisance calls reveals that consumers who experienced unwanted calls received around two per week on average and typically these unethical calls are labelled as ‘lifestyle surveys’ and used to lead respondents into the mistaken belief that the survey is genuine market research. 

MRS says that the respondent is unaware of the reason that his or her information is being used and how it will be stored and shared, and often these surveys are conducted by a commercial third party to generate sales leads, or even sold on to a further commercial third party to exploit.

At the end of June Justice Minister Lord Faulks announced proposals for fines of up to 20 per cent of annual turnover for firms using information gathered by unlawful unsolicited calls and texts, claiming it is was good news for reputable firms.

Reputation is one of the issues that the MRS campaign against these practices will aim to tackle and other brands and companies caught up in the negative reflections on their businesses should follow suit.    

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