Confusion around consent and data sharing still reigns

A report by the Direct Marketing Commission has found that confusion over consent and third-party data sharing worry consumers.


Clarity of consent and third-party data sharing dominated consumer complaints in 2016, according to the Direct Marketing Commission (DMC).

Its annual report shows complex supply chains and confusion over consent represent the biggest concerns to consumers.

In 2016, the Direct Marketing Commission recorded 230 complaints between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016. Those unrelated to members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) were passed to the relevant authority where possible. The DM Commission tackled 48 separate cases in total: 40 consumer complaints and eight business complaints.

During the year in question, the commission’s board formally investigated six businesses, four of which were found to be in breach of the DMA Code.

READ MORE: Marketers failing to ‘deal intelligently’ with data 

Of the 48 cases, 35 (73%) related to data, privacy and quality. These cases often related to complex supply chains where the original consent or lack of consent had been overlooked, breaching the DMA Code.

One formal case was referred to the commission following a complaint from a Telephone Preference Service (TPS)-registered consumer who had received an unwanted call from a telemarketer fundraising on behalf of a cancer charity. It turned out the data had been sourced from a telemarketer in India.

It’s simply not good enough just to say ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘I work on a basis of trust’

George Kidd, Direct Marketing Commission

The charity knew little of the sub-contract arrangements, had not visited the Indian telemarketer and did not seem, at the time, to have arrangements in place to effectively test whether the processes they had set were being followed.

“In almost every case the Commission considered we found ourselves looking at lengthy supply chains that resulted in messages and calls to people who had made clear they did not want these and had not agreed to them,” DM commissioner George Kidd says.

Kidd believes the failure to conduct sufficient due diligence could result in reputational damage for brands.

“It’s simply not good enough just to say ‘I didn’t know’, ‘I work on a basis of trust’, ‘my suppliers filled in a form saying they would behave’ and ‘it’s not my fault; someone let me down’,” he adds.

Numerous complaints about problems with ill-managed data supply chains prompted the Commission to raise matters with the DMA.

He concludes: “We are delighted the Association has started a process of audit and review of data broker and lead generation businesses to ensure they have the processes and the practices in place to ensure the consents they secure and the data they supply are clear.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here