As we seek clarity from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that invitations to participate in marketing research studies are not advertising, among other points, the result will have real world consequences for the marketing research and analytics industry. Like many companies before it, Insights Association member company M3 USA is facing down a ridiculous TCPA class action lawsuit over a simple fax invitation to participate in a research study, but the company’s willingness to fight instead of settle out of court offers us a chance to prevent many future such shakedown attempts and set the right kind of precedent.
Several of our members have already chimed in with their own comments to the FCC:
- John Couvillon (JMC Enterprises of Louisiana) filed comments with the FCC, saying: "I support the position taken by M3 that research invitations by fax are not advertising. It's important to recognize that the original intent of the TCPA (as stated by former senator Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina)) was to deal with (his words) "telephone terrorism", or telemarketing cases. However, the scope of this legislation has expanded far beyond its original intent, and with continuing changes in technology that have not been adequately addressed, the fear of unnecessary and costly litigation is a persistent and real threat for many businesses. In supporting this position, it is crucial to appreciate that uninvited solicitation by telemarketers (which the TCPA sought to address) is entirely different than survey research. Legitimate survey research enables elected officials to make better decisions about what their constituents want, while enabling companies (and even nonprofits) to learn what its customers want. For this research to occur, data must be collected, but with unreasonable restrictions inadvertently being placed on this activity, the cost of this data collection has become unnecessarily costly, particularly with more and more people moving to cell phone usage only every day. In closing, I would encourage the FCC to recognize (through a limited ruling favoring M3) that impeding survey research was NOT the intent of the TCPA legislation, and the M3 case is a good time for the FCC to make this assertion."
- David Rothstein (RTi Research) told the FCC: "I am the CEO of a mid-sized marketing research company with 50+ employees doing business since 1979. I am in full support of M3's petition. The faxes do not represent advertising, sales, or marketing. Rather, they are facilitating the communication of an opportunity for physicians to lend their opinions to companies working to provide optimal solutions to health care problems."
- Jude Olinger (Olinger Group) commented to the agency: "As the CEO of a market research firm, The Olinger Group, and a Past Chairman of the Board of the market research industry's leading industry trade association, CASRO, I unequivocally support the position of M3 USA in this petition to the Commission. There is a clear line between legitimate research activities and the activities associated with marketing. M3's position requesting an expedited declaratory ruling from the Commission to confirm that research survey invitations are not TCPA “advertisements" should be honored by the Commission immediately. The request is reasonable and sensible. And the right thing for the American public whose lives are enhanced every day by decisions based on accurate, reliable market research."
- Josh Logan (Olinger Group) also told the FCC: "As a Senior Account Executive of a market research firm, The Olinger Group, I unequivocally support the position of M3 USA in this petition to the Commission. There is a clear line between legitimate research activities and the activities associated with marketing. M3's position requesting an expedited declaratory ruling from the Commission to confirm that research survey invitations are not TCPA “advertisements" should be honored by the Commission immediately. The request is reasonable and sensible, and the right thing for the American public whose lives are enhanced every day by decisions based on accurate, reliable market research."
- Ted Donnelly (Baltimore Research) filed comments to the agency: "I am writing in support of M3's petition. A solicitation to participate in legitimate marketing research should not fall under the TCPA. Marketing Research seeks to provide invaluable information to businesses and non-profits, which ultimately benefits consumers and causes. This does not qualify as marketing or advertising. A research solicitation is not looking to find a buyer of goods or services. In most cases, to the contrary, the recipient is being offered a cash incentive to participate."
Comments to the FCC are due by April 27 and we still need a few minutes of your time to support M3's petition. Comments can be submitted at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express , with “02-278” in the field for “Proceeding(s)” and your name in the field for "Name(s) of Filer(s)." Comments need not be lengthy or extensive; the mere submittal of some form of support itself has tremendous value.