NEWS3 October 2011

German research watchdog accuses US-based firm of sugging


GERMANY— A US-based company has been accused by the German research watchdog of selling under the guise of research.

Las Vegas-based IMR International Market Research, which operates in Germany as Handoo, claims to be researching users’ experiences of mobile phones – but requires a €99 payment from participants, promising them a phone in return.

Handoo’s website says, “We want your opinion” and claims that the company conducts user experience research on mobile phones and accessories. It says participants will be given mobile phones such as the Apple iPhone and the HTC Desire, which they can keep.

The board of arbitration for German market and social research has reprimanded the firm for blurring the line between sales and research. It said IMR’s practices were misleading, could cost people money and could damage the reputation of research. It said it had informed the data protection authorities in Germany about the company’s activities.

At the time of publication IMR had not replied to an email from Research seeking comment.

Research association Esomar recently responded to cases in India where research participants were asked for upfront payments, saying: “Respondents should never be expected to pay for participating in a survey and this practice is highly damaging to the image of market research.”