Friday, 4 July 2008

02's apology

o2 Broadband: 9/10 customers would recommend us

The story so far: I complained that o2 gave my email address to three different market research companies - without my permission - a breach of their promise and the Data Protection Act.

Today I received an email from o2's Head of Customer and Market Insight. She's sorry to learn of my 'disappointment at the way your personal information has been handled'. o2 stop short of admitting a breach of the Data Protection Act, although the email admits our partner agency's rules were broken when my details were passed from one research company to another.
"We're investigating what's happened and how we can prevent similar mistakes in future, so I'm grateful that you contacted us."
o2's email goes on to reassure me that the researcher working on the mobile phone survey is:
"fully aware that her contact details have been passed to o2 customers."
(I must have misunderstood her when she told me she would have to change her personal email address as a result). In answer to my complaint about the number of third party emails I received after taking o2's survey, they answer:
"We understand the concern you have raised in being contacted three times in short succession. This is not the experience we want for our customers, and as a result of your complaint we are now looking at our sample management processes in detail and will put some extra rules in place to avoid over contact."

o2's reply leaves 3 unanswered questions, so I phone and leave a message. Later this afternoon I got the opportunity to ask o2's Head of Customer Insight in person.

Question 1: Why doesn't o2 doesn't brand its market research invitations with a logo and o2 email address?
We do, your invitation to take the first Broadband survey has an o2 logo.
I'm sorry to contradict you, but I have it on the screen in front of me, and it doesn't have the o2 logo.
We need to look into that. But we don't brand all our research, because if respondents know who the research is about it skews the answers we get. So the mobile phone research you were invited to take part in, isn't o2 branded.
I'm sorry to contradict you again, but the first line of that invitation reads 'We are conducting market research for your mobile phone provider o2' - no respondent could be in any doubt about who the research is for - so if anonymity is your intention it's failed. Why do you offer respondents small amounts of money to take the one of your surveys - instead of paying £2 to make a phone call, why not just make it a free call number instead?
That's an interesting point, we'll look at that. We don't offer a cash incentive for the first survey because we need to be able to demonstrate to senior managers that customers aren't bribed to give positive scores.

Question 2: o2 warns customers against revealing their email address - why does o2 let third parties make direct contact with its customers?
When we give our agents your email address they are bound by the Data Protection Act and don't use them for any other purpose.
But one of your agents - TNS - did pass my contact details to another party - in breach of the Data Protection Act.
Yes and they shouldn't have done, and we are investigating that mistake.

Question 3: It was very difficult initially to make my complaint heard - despite the fact that any customer phoning o2 has to undergo lengthy security questioning - all in the name of Data Protection. Customer Service don't have any training in how to deal with a Data Protection complaint, even though they ask Data Protection questions in every call. They can't even name o2's Data Controller.
The Data Protection Act is very complicated. We do need to look into that, but I have never received a Data Protection complaint before.

o2 spend a lot of money with research agencies discovering what their customers think. This customer's insight is free - although o2 has generously waived my broadband subscription charge for the next three months (oh, and I cheekily asked for a free usb mobile modem, so I can write this blog on the move... yeah, dream on).

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