Having worked in the list and data industry for over fifteen years, it is unfortunate that I have heard many stories from clients of how they’ve had their fingers burnt with bad data - either bad quality data or data that is not compliant with data legislation. It’s a serious problem, more so now because of the multitude of suppliers with varying methods of collecting data and because it is just so difficult to properly evaluate the quality of data until you are actually using it.
It also causes a lot of distress for the client and potential distress to the data subjects themselves, not to mention the wasted marketing budget. So how do you mitigate the risk? When dealing with a list broker, list manager or any kind of intermediary that is renting data on your behalf, it’s important that you check for certain safeguards. Of these, membership of the Direct Marketing Association can be extremely important.
What does DMA membership actually mean? It is the body that sets and monitors standards for the industry, established in 1992 and governed by the Direct Marketing Commission (DMC). The DMA is responsible for the industry’s Code of Practice and requires members to complete checks that their services and business meet the code.This Code of Practice, signed by members, sets out the requirement to be transparent, fair and honest in their dealings with clients, the necessity to deal with complaints effectively and, finally, to be respectful of the personal data they collect, manage and sell.
As with other industry bodies, the DMA also has a regulatory element to its operation. Through the authority of the DMC, it can expel members that do not operate to the Code and, in the most serious cases, the DMC can refer cases to the Office of Fair Trading, The Trading Standards Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office, all of which have the power to pursue legal prosecution if required. Ultimately DMA membership, while not a cast-iron guarantee that the provider will be responsible, does provide an assurance that the company should follow a set code of practice and is subject to regulation by a body with sufficiently robust powers.
What else should data buyers be looking for? Above all, my experiences have taught me to look for data providers that operate responsibly and that there are indicators that will allow you to evaluate this. DMA membership is just one of these indicators, but you should also:
Any organisation selling and managing marketing data should be wholly transparent about its business and the product it is selling. It has always been my advice that, unless you are totally confident in the legitimacy of the company and the way it operates, you should be looking elsewhere for your data.