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Survey among UK’s leading organisations by sales and marketing data resource specialists, Marketing Improvement, reveals woefully inadequate ability to handle incoming data protection and privacy enquiries – despite cutting edge IT systems

Bracknell, Berkshire-March 21, 2006-A new survey among the UK’s leading businesses – all of the FTSE100 organisations – reveals that around two thirds of them are failing to handle incoming telephone enquiries related to data protection and privacy, despite their IT systems. The Marketing Improvement survey, entitled “How FTSE100 Companies Handle Data Protection and Privacy Enquiries”, suggests that while many of these organisations may have addressed the technical challenges presented by the requirements of data protection and freedom of information laws, they have failed the people and processes issues.

According to the survey, only 1/3 of individuals wishing to make a complaint or discuss a data protection matter with a corporation will be directed to the right person or department. The remaining 2/3rds will either be sent to the wrong person or department or, in some cases, be refused any assistance at all because they could not give the receptionist a specific name!

Tim Beadle, Director at Marketing Improvement explains, “These results go some way to prove that for every technology challenge there are associated cultural issues. IT departments seem to have been extremely efficient at deploying new systems in order to meet the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts, yet organisations seem to be failing to deliver the necessary training and communications in order to handle incoming enquiries effectively.” Beadle continued, “Part of the problem may be the term ‘data protection’ itself which sounds like ‘protecting data’ that is easily interpreted as an ‘IT issue’. Yet, the reality is that data protection concerns the rights of an individual in relation to their own personal information.”

“Our research looks not at whether the FTSE100 corporations have a data protection person or team, but at whether it is possible to call in as a member of the public to the main switchboard number and to discover by that route whom to speak to. The results are staggering when you consider that the organisations in question are ‘leaders’ in British industry and the theoretical examples of best practice.”

In 60 percent of cases, the survey callers were transferred to irrelevant departments within the organisation. These included Legal, Compliance, Customer Service / Customer Care, Profit Protection and most commonly Human Resources. The call handler response in 14 percent of cases was that they did not understand the request being made of them. Other popular anecdotal replies included, “I can only put you through if I have a name to put you through to”, “We don’t have one,” and “I’m sure we had someone who did that, but he left.” One notable corporation took a researcher through four departments and 15 minutes of ‘hold music’.

According to Marketing Improvement, the reason for this lack of attention by business is clearly the lack of enforced penalty. Studies of volume of prosecutions show a bewildering lack of formal enforcement of the UK Law, with the Information Commissioner declaring a preferred approach to be to educate rather than to prosecute even now in 2006. This provides a small risk of prosecution to the cavalier business.

Beadle concludes, “Companies are doing themselves a disservice with this cavalier approach to privacy. As customers become ever more discerning, they are trusting corporations less. The Information Commissioner, in our view, would be doing UK PLC a valuable service if he acted more rigorously to enforce the law, then customers would be less afraid to hand over information.” This lack of rigour results in organisations assessing compliance with or knowledge of Data Protection Legislation as a low business risk. Under these circumstances the rights of individuals are eroded when the intention of Parliament was to enhance the rights of individuals, the report concludes.

For further information about the survey or about data management issues, visit or call +44 (0)1344 392648.

Press contacts: Tim Beadle, Marketing Improvement 07768 512445,
Natalie Sutton, Proud PR, 07768 026197,

About Marketing Improvement
Marketing Improvement is a leading UK marketing performance consultancy. Companies that have used its services include BT, Lloyds TSB, Chartered Institute of Marketing, Microsoft, Imperial War Museum and Cisco Systems. It helps its clients enhance their marketing performance through the better use and application of data; optimising CRM systems; building marketing databases and providing powerful targeting and segmentation tools. For more information visit or call +44 (0)1344 392648.

About the Survey
This report examines one detailed aspect of the awareness of Data Protection and Privacy legislation and the manner in which a simple query from a member of the public is handled in all FTSE100 corporations. Mishandling this query with a dissatisfied individual could easily result in a complaint to the UK Information Commissioner leading to a prosecution. Our researcher asked to speak to the Privacy Officer – the person responsible for Data Protection. 69% of FTSE 100 switchboards did not even understand the question. It finds that most FTSE100 corporations fall far short of simple competence, let alone exhibit excellence; it recommends the appointment of a corporate Chief Privacy Officer to manage risk, oversee compliance, and create excellence. A full copy of the report is available from Marketing Improvement.

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