Data privacy complaints about non-DMA Members rise in 2021

data privacy - Image by Pete Linforth of Pixabay

Issues around data management and privacy were a major concern among consumers and businesses in 2020/21, according to the Data and Marketing Commission’s (DMC) latest Annual Report. 

Privacy complaints

In the year ranging from July 2020 to June 2021, the DMC reported a rise in complaints against businesses across the data and marketing sector – rising by 33% year-on-year (from 63 to 84).

However, the DMC investigated fewer complaints involving members of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) during this period – falling by 30% when compared to the previous year’s total.

Member complaints amounted to a fifth of the total number of complaints (19%). 75% of these were consumer complaints and 25% were about B2B issues.

The majority of complaints relate to data, privacy and quality (64%), with contractual (18%) and customer service (18%) problems making up the remainder.

“Since the introduction of the GDPR, we have seen complaints against DMA Members gradually lessen”, said Amerdeep Somal, Chief Commissioner of the DMC. 

“A key reason for this is likely down to an increasing awareness by member organisations of their obligation to be transparent, to be clear, to be respectful – subsequently more customers now recognise that their data is valued and protected”.

The largest proportion of complaints (81%), which involved organisations that are not members of the DMA, were referred by the DMC to other statutory or self-regulatory bodies. 

However, in some cases, particularly where they involved consumers unable to unsubscribe from unwanted communications, the DMC did reach out to the business to provide a reminder of its legal commitments and request that it unsubscribe the individual.

“Treating customers with empathy, authenticity and giving them a personal experience will impact customer sentiment in a positive way and will encourage the industry to use big data and other technology tools as a force for good”, Somal said. 

“Ultimately, we all must strive to improve trust in the industry and build a better experience for the customer.”

Evolving role of DMC and industry regulators

In the coming year, the DMC said it aims to become an ICO accredited Independent Monitoring Body with a clear remit to enforce a new GDPR Industry Code, through the registration of organisations who sign-up to the Code and the investigation of complaints.

A key challenge for regulators this year must be to boost industry knowledge surrounding grey areas of the GDPR – the industry must receive clarity around the use of legitimate interests for marketing. 

Regulators also continue to receive complaints from consumers post-GDPR about service emails, which should exist to provide key service updates. 

But there is still confusion about whether a service email is just a masked marketing email.

“As our industry evolves so, too, must the role of regulators like the ICO and DMC. We must bring education to the forefront and share learning from our investigations to improve industry practices. 

“This will help create an environment where businesses and marketers are encouraged to learn and increase the flow and exchange of information,” said Somal.