The Direct Marketing Commission (DMC), the self-regulatory body for the UK direct marketing industry, today announces the results of its first Quarterly Complaints Index, the report and analysis of complaints it received between September and December 2008.
The index reveals an exceptionally high industry willingness for compliance with self-regulatory rules in the last quarter of 2008.
Of the 107 complaints received by the DMC in this period, 94 were investigated and resolved informally without the need for any formal action.
These complaints concerned only minor breaches of the DM Code of Practice – issues that are not regularly reported against one specific company or do not affect large numbers of consumers – where the companies involved demonstrated their willingness to take expedient remedial action.
Payment issues and unwanted emails source of most grievances
The industry practice most frequently subject to complaint came under the heading of customer ‘account issues’.
These complaints concerned issues of payment including unclear invoices or additional charges, such as extra costs for late payment. In total 21 per cent of complaints received by the DMC concerned financial accounts or statements.
The second most common area of complaint (9 per cent) fell under the heading of ‘unwanted emails’; marketing emails sent to consumers that were either unsolicited or that did not give an option to ‘unsubscribe’ or opt out.
An identical number of complaints (9 per cent) was received relating to issues of ‘poor response’. This category concerns customer service issues, for example the inability to get through to the company on the telephone or unhelpful or inappropriate company responses to consumer queries.
Unwanted marketing calls were the fourth most common subject of complaints (8 per cent of the total); these complaints related to instances where consumers received telephone calls from companies trying to sell them something they did not want to purchase.
Only four complaints were received – all of which were resolved informally – relating to instances of ‘silent calls’.
Home shopping companies dominate complaints
Perhaps unsurprisingly given that the data were gathered over the Christmas shopping period, 66 per cent of all complaints were directed against companies in the home shopping industry.
The next most commonly complained about sector was that of direct marketing itself with 15 per cent of complaints related specifically to direct marketing suppliers. Third on the list were traditional retailers (6 per cent) and financial services organisations (4 per cent).
The vast majority of complaints received related to business to consumer direct marketing. However, six complaints were business to business complaints. These concerned instances of door to door marketing, unclean data, incorrect information and poor sales service and were confined to list companies and companies in the directory publishing sector.
Complaints on non-DMA members
Of the 86 complaints received about companies that were members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 70 related to client members while 16 related to DM suppliers. Of the supplier complaints, ten pertained to database and list companies, three to email marketing companies and three to telemarketing and postal service companies.
The DMC received 21 complaints relating to non-DMA members: seven of these complaints were outside the DMC’s investigative remit and were referred to other regulatory and self-regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority, Information Commissioner’s Office and The Office of Fair Trading.
One additional complaint about a DMA member in the publishing industry related to advertising content was also referred to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Matti Alderson, chairman of the DMC, said, “The results of our Quarterly Complaints Index reveal something that those of us in the business of self-regulation have realised for some time: the vast majority of the DM industry enjoys an extremely high level of compliance.
"In our experience, despite the negative press that the industry sometimes receives, the great majority of companies don’t want to mislead or cheat the public. Most are keen to provide a high quality of service and recognise the commercial benefits of being compliant. We’re encouraged by these results and hope they’ll be maintained despite the current economic climate.”
Complaint Index Data Methodology
The statistics and data quoted in this release are based on the tabulated analysis of the 107 complaints received and processed by the Direct Marketing Commission between the months of September to December 2008. Data has been tabulated according to the following categories:
· Direct Marketing Discipline: (account issues, advertisements, door to door, faulty goods, fictitious lists, fraudulent behaviour, incorrect information, membership obligation, membership commitment issues, misleading information, misleading literature, misleading advertising, non-delivery of goods, non-return of goods, postage and packing issues, pros response, poor sales service, poor staff service, poor telephone service, non- receipt of refunds, rude or unhelpful staff, silent calls, unclean data, unwanted email, unsolicited goods, unwanted marketing calls, unwanted mail, unwanted SMS)
· Sector of complaint subject: (broadcast, database, directory publishing, email marketing, energy, financial services, home shopping, lifestyle, mobile telephony, postal services, publishing, retail, sport, telemarketing, telephone, teleshopping, various)
· DMA Member and non-member complaints
· B2B and Consumer complaints
· Informally and formally resolved complaints
· Complaint processing and referrals
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