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20 August 2015

DMA Published New Code of Practice Centres on Data Driven Marketing

The Direct Marketing Association (the "DMA") has launched a new principles based code of practice (the "Code") which aims to put the consumer first.

The Code was developed following consultation with the Information Commissioner's Office, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Ofcom and came into force on 18 August 2014.

Self-described as 'an aspirational agreement to which all DMA members and their business partners must adhere', the aim of the Code is to address consumer concerns about data privacy.

The Code highlights the importance of compliance with data protection legislation but also introduces five principles with the aim of encouraging members to treat consumers fairly and with respect.

Rather than simply following rules and regulations the DMA has sought to allow its members to make intuitive decisions – asking 'is what we are doing honest and fair?' in any given circumstance.

The idea behind the Code is to encourage members to self-regulate and recognise the need to consider principles that surpass compliance with the law.

The five principles that have been introduced are:

  1. Putting customers first: value your customer, understand their needs and offer relevant products and services.
  2. Respecting privacy: act in accordance with your customer's expectations.
  3. Acting honestly and fairly: be honest, fair and transparent throughout your business.
  4. Being diligent with data: treat your customer's personal data with the utmost care and respect.
  5. Taking responsibility for actions: act responsibly at all times and honour your accountability.

The DMA recognised that while some members were legally compliant they were failing to meet consumer's expectations.

The aim of the first principle, described as the 'hero' principle – put your customers first – is to promote the idea of marketing as an exchange between businesses that are seeking to prosper and their customers who are seeking to benefit.

As such, DMA members should be clear, transparent and open in their marketing interactions with consumers at all times and not seek to exploit their customer's inexperience or lack of knowledge.

Members should take particular care when dealing with customers that are children or other vulnerable people.

Further, within the rules of the Code is an obligation to prevent DMA members representing themselves as carrying out research when they are in fact aiming to sell goods and services.

Members are also obliged to ensure their sub-contractors who themselves are not DMA members comply with the Code when acting on their behalf.

DMA members will be responsible for the consequences of any non-compliance by any such subcontractors.

To assist members, the DMA has also produced a series of guides to supplement the Code – they are channel and sector specific containing summaries of important legislation and references to other codes of practices. These guides are available here.

This article was written by Caroline Swain.

For more information contact Caroline on +44 (0)20 7203 5158 or