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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

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. The survey, entitled “How FTSE100 Companies Handle Data Protection Enquiries”, is published today by data specialists Marketing Improvement who suggest that this failure perpetuates mistrust among consumers and exacerbates the challenges of permission based marketing.

According to the survey, individuals wishing to make a complaint or discuss a data protection matter with a corporation have just a 31-40 percent chance of getting routed to the correct place – despite having asked for the correct person or department. A further 3 percent of enquirers were completely refused any assistance as the name of the post holder was not known.

Tim Beadle, Director at Marketing Improvement explains, ”The role of the direct marketer is becoming increasingly hard. They are expected to deliver tangible results while working within a complex data environment of legislation and best practice. In both B2B and B2C, gaining the attention of customers is massively hindered by an innate mistrust of how their personal data will be used.”

“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 – and does nothing to quash consumer mistrust.”

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 dis-service 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. “The appalling situation vis a vis Telemarketing Preference Service (TPS) opt-outs should be a wake-up call for everyone in marketing – if we don’t start treating customers rights with respect, they’ll refuse to listen” concluded Beadle.

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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