OPINION24 August 2009
OPINION24 August 2009
A ban on the use of client incentives in market research could spell bad news for the industry, says Virtual Surveys director Ray Poynter. Additional project costs are one concern, but how will respondents react to the loss of the branded goods and services they used to get for taking part in surveys and communities?
I think this ruling is likely to damage the UK market research profession – in terms of business, in terms of our standing with clients and even our relationships with customers/respondents.
My main concern is that this ruling reflects the traditional regulator and market research industry approach of deciding what is in the public’s best interest. Market researchers determining the rules in consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) looks very much like another example of our traditional ‘command and control’ style of operating, and makes us look out of touch with what customers want.
So, where do I think the problems with this ruling will be:
I understand that the MRS position is that the ICO has insisted on this rule being enforced in order to maintain the partial exemptions that market research has from a couple of the provisions of the Data Protection Act, and from some other regulations such as the Telephone Preference Service (which means researchers can still ring people who have registered not to be contacted by marketers).
A recent comment on this website makes it clear that one option for a research company is to conduct studies that would benefit from client incentives under the “Using research techniques for non-research purposes” guidelines – i.e. what we used to call Category 6. I am glad that this clarification has been offered, but I think the MRS should have actively promoted this option. If we market researchers are to stay relevant to research buyers then I believe we will need to embrace non-research purposes, not as a lesser method, but as simply one of the choices available.
Indeed when we conduct research along the non-research purposes lines we respect the respondents wishes about whether to ring/email them, we do not re-process the data, and we do not store the data for longer than is necessary nor for longer that has been expressly agreed – none of those conditions seems too onerous to me.