Registration Q & A

Why do we need a Research Registration System?

In 1992 the government of the day passed Bill C-62 which gave responsibility for the regulation of telecommunications to the Canadian Radio - television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The move signaled a coming regulatory threat when the legislation placed research in the same category as telemarketing. Almost without delay, Bell Canada applied to the CRTC for sweeping new powers over the telemarketing industry, and therefore by definition, over the research industry. The proposed change would have restrictions on research calling hours, the equipment that can be used, and even the ability to select a random sample.

Only through a very aggressive lobbying and information campaign was the research industry spared the damage of the Bell proposal. The most disturbing thing about this near miss was the lack of understanding found at Bell, at the CRTC, and with bureaucrats, politicians, and the public at large regarding the difference between telemarketing and research. Telemarketing generated a large number of complaints about invasion of privacy and the research industry was being tarred with the same brush.

The Canadian Survey Research Council (CSRC) initiated a Registration System to address, among other things, this regulatory threat. Registration of research firms and industry wide agreement to abide by the Declaration of Principles boosts the industry's credibility with decision-makers and with the public. The Declaration of Principles is a set of basic ethical guidelines that builds on the Professional Marketing Research Society's (PMRS) Code of Conduct and on the Canadian Association of Marketing Research Organization's (CAMRO) Standards. The Registration System includes a toll-free telephone number for the public to check the validity of a research project and to express concerns or complaints to the research community. The industry, through the Research Registration System, is able to reinforce the difference between telemarketing and research. Most importantly, the registry shows that the industry can take responsibility for policing itself and help to avoid ill-advised regulatory intervention by the CRTC.

NOTE: CSRC, CAMRO and PMRS merged as of January 2005 into one association ­ known as The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) / L'Association de la recherche et de l'intelligence marketing (ARIM).

Who organized the Research Registration System?

The Research Registration System was organized by the Canadian Survey Research Council. The CSRC was formed in 1992 to represent all aspects of the research industry: professionals in the field; companies; field houses; and buyers. The CSRC was created to deal with public policy challenges which are threatening to impinge on the ability of researchers to conduct their business in a normal and profitable fashion.

The Research Registration System was developed in conjunction with various leaders in the industry. PMRS, CAMRO, research agencies and research clients were all involved in creating a solution that is practical and meets the real world requirements of the industry.

NOTE: CSRC, CAMRO and PMRS merged as of January 2005 into one association - The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) / L'Association de la recherche et de l'intelligence marketing (ARIM).

What is the System like?

It is simple and straight forward. Submitting a one page form which asks several short questions is all that is required to register a project. The research firm is assigned a unique company number. This number forms part of the research registration number given to all respondents along with MRIA's "1 888" number. In 2012, the system was automated to allow members of the public to verify research through the Research Registration System website. Respondents currently have both the option to call or check the website to verify surveys.

Potential respondents will be asked for the registration number of the project they wish to discuss. If the project is registered the details of respondents' concerns will be noted. If the concern involves a normal and accepted industry practice, the caller will be told that this is the case. In most instances these conflicts will be easily defused. Where there seems to be a more serious problem, the System's Information Officers will act as a liaison between the respondent and the registered company, helping to resolve the matter. For cases that cannot be satisfactorily resolved, an appeal process will be available to both the respondent and the company registering the study.

Who is administering the System?

The system had been operated by BB&C, an Association Management Services company, administered the Registration System and Expertel ran the Inbound Calling Centre. Currently, the MRIA administrates all aspects of the system from taking in-bound calls to running the website.  

Does the Registration System mean that somebody is passing judgment on our research or the questions we ask?

No. The system was not created to second guess questionnaires. Normal practices in the industry are not accepted as a valid complaint. The System focuses more on applying broad principles and not on micro managing a company's affairs.

Is my company required to register projects in this System?

If your company is a corporate member of MRIA, you are required to register research projects. However, registration is not mandatory for non-members of MRIA.

If it's not researchers who are causing the problem why do we have to solve it?

Almost without exception, researchers behave responsibly and ethically in the course of operating their business. Researchers are not responsible for the problem but it is, nevertheless, our problem. Some unscrupulous telemarketers impersonate genuine researchers in order to sell their merchandise. It's called MUGGing (masquerading under the guise of gathering information) and it gives everyone a bad name, including our industry. Our challenge is to educate people about true research, its proper practice, and the distinction between MUGGing and the important services that our industry performs. Registration also makes it easier to isolate telemarketers who engage in MUGGing and to generate reliable information on the pervasiveness of the problem.

Won't we get more frivolous complaints if we give people an easy place to complain to?

We may get a few more complaints because we are providing an easy, direct way for the public to respond to our industry. Those who wish to make a complaint should have the means to get feedback to us. It is the inability to vent frustration that presents the real danger. The raw number of complaints will now remain with the MRIA instead of Bell or the CRTC. When the CRTC implemented its last rule changes regarding telemarketers, it specifically cited the number of complaints it received as the reason for its actions. Without a Research Registration System to defuse conflict, those who do wish to complain will have no choice but to go straight to the regulator.

How can I comply? Sometimes my clients make changes to their questionnaire at the last minute.

The system is set up to accept research projects and register them within 24 hours of receiving notice of going to the field. The System is easy to use and imposes very little burden on the participating companies. You will have no trouble registering changes, even at the last moment.

Some of my clients do not wish to have it known that I am doing research for them. Would I have to reveal the client for whom I am surveying?

No. Confidentiality of information was a primary concern of the MRIA as it developed the Registration System. Generally, the names of clients who commission various studies are not released to the public; however, some clients may choose to be identified to respondents for certain types of client-identified research. Unless the project is a client-identified study, the only information that is available to callers is the name of the registered party carrying out the poll, information that most practitioners give as regular practice. Even the information you register is not available to your competitors because the system is administered by an independent third party.

The Registration System - Progress for Researchers

The Registration System is not a panacea. It is not a magic bullet that will instantly end the regulatory threat to the research industry. But the Registration System is a pragmatic approach to defending the industry and protecting your right to do business. The Registration System is a vehicle for the industry to forge a relationship with the public. We are telling the public that we care about their privacy. And we are delivering that message with actions, not empty promises. We are also showing the CRTC that our industry shares its concerns and that we are willing to act in our own backyard to identify unethical practitioners.

Registration provides the MRIA with data about complaints. It provides a base of credibility that will improve the public's understanding of the industry and protect your company's ability to operate with a minimum of government interference. The Registration System helps the Canadian research industry realize a long and prosperous future.