Regulation of Market Research: Looking Ahead to 2011

Laws and government regulation have a huge impact on the market research industry. As a member of the MRA’s Government Affairs Committee, I hear about many issues that make news and many that don’t. As a wrap-up to 2010 and a preview to 2011, I talked to Howard Fienberg, MRA’s Director of Government Affairs to get his take on legislative issues in 2011.

Here is a brief summary of three key issues:

  • Physician Incentive Payments: For the past several years, several states have passed laws limiting or eliminating payments to physicians, even for legitimate research. The industry’s fight has been to keep such limits from applying to research. The recent federal healthcare law dealt with physician compensation from pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Fienberg states that this bill seems to have “soothed” the state legislatures so that issue has been mostly put to rest for the time being.
  • Data Privacy: Internet data privacy is a huge, emotional issue and many sides want to see something done to protect individual privacy. The implications for all research, particularly online research, can be massive if access to people and information is restricted. The Best Practices Act (H.R. 5777) claims to focus on marketing and commerce, but actually includes research. The act would give unprecedented new powers to the FTC to regulate data privacy, including being able to establish definitions. Such powers would give the FTC control over data and set up under-the-radar decisions over “mundane regulations” that could have a dramatic impact on MR.
  • Auto-dialing of mobile phones: Current law outlaws auto-dialing of mobile phones with a fine of $500 and up for each violation. Auto-dialing means predictive dialing or any other type of dialing by a machine. Unless changed, this prohibition will dramatically downgrade market research productivity and increase costs. For instance, I no longer have a land line at home. I put my mobile phone number on everything, but I don’t always identify it as such. A firm could unintentionally call my mobile phone and be in violation of the auto-dialing prohibition. For more information, check out the MRA Position Paper.

These are a few of the issues of which researchers need to be aware. The MRA’s Government Affairs office is working to allow our industry to effectively provide information that propels our economy and generates jobs. The office has been successful in 2010 and is looking forward to a good 2011. Thank you, Howard Feiberg and LaToya Rembert Lang, for your work on our behalf.

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