NEWS28 October 2009

New Zealand MR bodies slam Labour for ‘deceiving’ poll participants

Asia Pacific Government

NEW ZEALAND— The Market Research Society of New Zealand (MRSNZ) and the Association of Market Research Organisations (AMRO) have blasted the Labour Party after one of its MPs polled the public using a defunct company name.

MRSNZ and AMRO said the behaviour by the country’s main opposition party was “unacceptable” after MP Rick Barker told volunteers carrying out a telephone survey to tell respondents they were working for a company called Data Research, which was deregistered 12 years ago.

The associations said: “The Labour Party’s use of a non-operational company’s name deceived those members of the New Zealand public who were contacted for interviewing. This practice broke several of the rules that are followed by most market research companies regardless of their country.”

MRSNZ president Horst Feldhaeuser (pictured) said he was “dismayed” that so many rules concerning ethical behaviour, misleading respondents, abusing respondents’ trust and making false statements about the organisation had been broken, and that the incident could have a wider effect on the industry.

“The Labour Party’s actions risk increasing the cost of conducting bona fide market research in New Zealand,” he said. “Commercial businesses and public sector organisations alike invest well over a hundred million dollars each year into market research, and if the public becomes more reluctant to answer surveys because they cannot trust the interviewers who call them up, then costs will increase.”

AMRO chairman Colin Yee said: “If any of our members were caught acting in the way that the Labour Party has done, then tough professional measures would be taken, quite possibly including expulsion from the organisation, job loss and definitely a hit to one’s business reputation.”

The trade bodies have demanded that the Labour Party apologises to the public “for lying to them”, and to the “hundreds of market researchers working in New Zealand for bringing their profession into disrepute”. They also want the party to outline its plans for future polling in “an ethical, transparent and honest manner”.

Barker told local press that he had not intended to deceive respondents, and felt that people may not have answered honestly if they knew the Labour Party was behind the survey. “No political party uses its own name directly when it undertakes polling,” he said.

The associations dismissed this argument, and Colin Yee said: “We understand that the Labour Party would not have wished to identify themselves before interviewing people because respondents’ answers could then be skewed, but all they had to do was explain to potential respondents that they were a political party surveying the public, and that their identity would be revealed at the end of the interview to avoid skewing the results. This workaround would have provided the Labour Party with unbiased results without misleading the public.”

On the use of the Data Research name, Barker said he had been unaware that the company was no longer active, but recalled that the party had used its services in the past.