Editorial Research woes

In the last few years, legislators across the country have become increasingly vocal about cracking down on companies that engage in vexatious telemarketing practices.Stiffer privacy regulations would doubtless be welcomed by the public, which at times feels as though it has...

In the last few years, legislators across the country have become increasingly vocal about cracking down on companies that engage in vexatious telemarketing practices.

Stiffer privacy regulations would doubtless be welcomed by the public, which at times feels as though it has come under siege from automatic dialing machines.

Telemarketers, too, have come out in favor of laws that would help weed out the bad eggs and assist in bringing credibility to their industry.

But legislators must be careful that, in their zeal to restrict unsolicited sales calls, they do not cause immeasurable damage to the research industry, which conducts its business almost exclusively over the telephone.

Unfortunately for researchers, people not familiar with the telemarketing and research industries frequently lump the two together, so when government officials draw up legislation to restrict unsolicited sales calls there is a danger they will inadvertently restrict unsolicited research calls as well.

The research industry is currently facing this same problem all over the world. In the u.s. alone, there are more than 100 separate pieces of privacy legislation under consideration or already in place, and in most instances the legislation does not distinguish between unsolicited calls for the purposes of selling and those for survey purposes.

Here in Canada, the Canadian Association of Market Research Organizations and the Professional Marketing Research Society are currently facing off against privacy legislators in a number of camps.

For one, the Department of Communications is considering new privacy legislation as part of its proposals in Bill C-62, The Telecommunications Act. As well, Bill C-62 proposes that the crtc should be granted regulatory powers over telecommunications carriers, thus giving it an increased say in privacy laws. And on June 29, Communications Minister Perrin Beatty launched a separate initiative to examine the whole privacy issue.

Two weeks ago, camro and pmrs failed in their efforts to convince the Senate, which had been studying Bill C-62 in committee, to alter a clause that failed to distinguish between the marketing research and telemarketing industries.

But the fight goes on.

Recently, camro and pmrs took the step of hiring an Ottawa lobby firm, Association House, to develop and implement an industry advocacy program.

Marketing research has played a pivotal role in the development of countless products and services.

Similarly, public opinion polling has become indispensable in the determination of future public policy, giving voice to people’s concerns over such issues as schooling, waste disposal and public transportation.

A recent Gallup Poll indicated that 59% of the public feels very positive or fairly positive about surveys, while only 11% have a negative attitude.

It is simply indefensible for legislators to lump market researchers with telemarketers.

And it is clearly not in the public interest.