NEWS12 October 2011

MRA sees survey opportunity in Obama deficit plan

Government North America

US— The Marketing Research Association (MRA) is hoping to hitch an exemption for the use of autodiallers in cellphone-based survey research to President Barack Obama’s package of deficit reduction measures.

Obama wants government debt collectors to be able to use autodiallers to reach debtors on their cellphones in recognition of the fact that “an increasing share of households no longer have landlines and rely on cellphones”.

In a letter to the congressional joint select committee on deficit reduction, MRA government affairs director Howard Fienberg makes the case that a similar exemption for survey and opinion research would help save the government money.

Currently, autodiallers can only be used to make calls to cellphones with the express prior consent of the call receipient. For survey researchers this means cellphone numbers must be manually dialled when included in research studies.

“Doing so takes much longer and costs two to four times as much as an ordinary telephone study,” writes Fienberg. “Those costs are also passed on to the government.”

Elsewhere, though, the MRA takes issue with another of the president’s money-making proposals – to repeal section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978, which the MRA says protects the status of independent contractors who often work with research agencies as field ethnographers, focus group moderators or as consultants.

“Section 530 provides both parties to an independent contractor relationship with absolute certainty that such status will be respected by the Internal Revenue Service,” writes Fienberg. “MRA respectfully requests that the joint select committee avoid any action that might repeal or impede section 530 protections.”