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Market Research FAQs

What is market and social research?

What is market and social research?
Why participate in a survey?
Do I have to participate in a survey?
I want to do more surveys, can I list somewhere for these?

Why are you calling me?

I'm on the Do Not Call Register. Why are you calling me? And how did you get this number?
But it's all telemarketing, isn't it?
Why should I answer your questions?
How do I know you won't try to sell me anything?
What gives you the right to call me when I haven't given you permission?
I have a silent number. How did you get it?
How can I be sure the information I provide will be kept confidential?
How can I check the credentials of a company that has called me to do a survey?
I think I am getting calls because I completed another survey, completed a promotion, or registered at a web site, and I don’t want to get calls on that basis any more.
Can I call to complain?

About the industry:

How much is the research industry worth in Australia?
What are the biggest threats facing the industry?
Why has the Research Industry Council of Australia been set up?
What regulations are there in the industry?
Is self-regulation strong enough?
What new trends are evolving in the industry?

What is market and social research?

Q. What is market and social research?

A. Market and social research provides accurate and timely information on the behaviour, needs, attitudes, opinions and motivations of a population. Armed with this knowledge, businesses are able to develop products and services to meet the desires of their customers and governments can tailor policies and programs to the needs of citizens. Also, important national statistics on tobacco use, television ratings, tourism movements, unemployment and so on can be reliably determined.

Q. Why participate in a survey?

A. Participating in surveys:

  • Is fun – you often are asked to give opinions about things that you otherwise don’t get a chance to
  • Is interesting, it gets you thinking about things that you might not otherwise think about;
  • Helps companies improve products and services for you as their customer;
  • Helps formulate public policy so that better services can be provided for you.

Q. Do I have to participate in a survey?

A. No, you don’t, but most surveys are short, interesting, and for the benefit of consumers generally, so you are strongly encouraged to participate. You will find the interviewers are always well-mannered, and you will enjoy the experience.

If the survey is longer than 20 minutes you will usually find that an incentive is offered, such as a gift voucher, cheque, or some other benefit.

Q. I want to do more surveys, can I list somewhere for these?

A. Yes, you will find a list of market research companies at http://www.amsrs.com.au/ and you will find that many firms have consumer panels with which you can register at their web sites. Research panels are only every used by the one firm, and there are strict rules to ensure that research companies protect your privacy.

Why are you calling me?

Q. I'm on the Do Not Call Register. Why are you calling me? And how did you get this number?

A. The 'Do Not Call Register' is for telemarketers who are trying to sell you something or get you to donate to charity. It does not apply to people who are only collecting opinions, not trying to sell you anything. We choose numbers at random from the directory and participants remain anonymous. If you like, we can make sure if your number comes up again we won't call. But it means your views won't count.

Q. But it's all telemarketing, isn't it?

A. Researchers are not telemarketers. Government agencies like Centrelink and product manufacturers are very responsive to what they learn from research. We have child-proof closures on medicines because research helped define the most workable designs. The location of stores and shopping centres is based on research. Public opinion research determines the best mass transit systems, what social service programs are needed, what special services school children and senior citizens need, and the list goes on.

Q. Why should I answer your questions?

A. Your views count. For example, if residents living in areas of high bushfire risk in Victoria hadn't taken part in a study about awareness of issues about bushfire, the state government wouldn't have understood how under-prepared they were to deal with bushfire and would not have put practical measures in place to help those people in future.

If farmers in Victoria hadn't taken part in a study on plant pests and diseases in the state, the state government and growing bodies would not have known how to communicate with, and educate, them so that farmers know how to identify, contain and eradicate such threats - protecting crops, the livelihood of farmers and the quality of life of all Australians.

Q. How do I know you won't try to sell me anything?

A. It is illegal to pretend to be doing market research if the real purpose of the call is telemarketing. Anyone caught doing this can be penalised under the Trade Practices Act.

Q. What gives you the right to call me when I haven't given you permission?

A. People have the right to privacy. We respect that. But people also have a right to have their opinions heard. From studies on public health, to voting intentions, to television ratings, to surveys of customer satisfaction for developing better products and services, market and social research provides valuable information about our society.

Q. I have a silent number. How did you get it?

A. For some studies researchers have to hear from groups that may be vulnerable. If people hadn't taken part in a crime incidence study where phone numbers were generated by an automatic number generator so that silent numbers were included as well, we would not know the actual incidence of crime, only the reported incidence. This would have meant that governments could not plan the right number of services to provide to the victims of crime and to crime enforcement and prevention agencies to reduce the effects of crimes in the first place.

Q. How can I be sure the information I provide will be kept confidential?

A. All professional researchers operate under a Code of Professional Behaviour which guarantees respondents the right to confidentiality, unless they specifically request a piece of information about them to be made known.

Most research companies operate under the Market and Social Research Privacy Principles that guarantee even greater levels of confidentiality and privacy than the Privacy Act.

Q. How can I check the credentials of a company that has called me to do a survey?

A. Click here to see a list of registered research organisations. You can also call the Market and Social Research Surveyline and speak with a customer support person on 1300 364 830.

Q. I think I am getting calls because I completed another survey, completed a promotion, or registered at a web site, and I don’t want to get calls on that basis any more.

A. You can always ask the interviewer why you have been selected for the survey, and if it came from some other company, research panel or promotion, they will tell you this so you can de-list with that database.

Q. Can I call to complain?

A. Yes. It is best to complain directly to the research company in question. You can find a directory of market and social research companies at www.amsrs.com.au However if you are still not satisfied, you can call the industry Surveyline on 1300 364 830.

About the industry:

Q: How much is the research industry worth in Australia?

The critical decisions of governments and business in this country rely on the Australian market and social research industry being able to gather statistically valid, representative, samples from the population.

Market and social research provides information on the needs, attitudes and motivations of a population.

It plays a vital role in assisting governments and businesses develop policies that respond to community sentiment and opinion by polling representative samples.

The size of the total industry in Australia for 2008 is AUD $799.5 million. It employs more than 10,000 full time equivalents in Australia, including 4,100 full time professionals.

The Australian Government is the biggest client of market and social research.

Q: What are the biggest threats facing the industry?

  • Mobile phone calling
  • Current restrictions on calling mobiles are an impediment to collecting representative data.
  • In June 2006, 82 per cent of persons aged 14 years and over in Australia used a mobile phone (according to ABS). Note that between 10-15 per cent of households in Australia may be mobile phone-only households (more when you include households that have a landline but only use mobiles). This figure will only increase as mobile-usage rates increase.
  • The trend for people to favour mobile phones over landlines means legislation is not geared to keep pace with technological and demographic change.
  • Falling response rates
  • The spread of social media and the use of online research methodologies provide opportunities for the industry but also represent potential threats if mis-used and is an area that we are monitoring closely

Q: Why has the Research Industry Council of Australia been set up?

RICA has been set up to become a single brand and external voice for the market and social research industry in Australia. RICA has been set up to communicate to:

  • The business and government client community
  • Government and regulatory bodies
  • Students/potential employees and academics
  • The media
  • The general public

Q: What regulations are there in the industry?

The Australian market and social research industry has an effective regime of self-regulation underpinned by a range of individual and company standards.

Individual standards (AMSRS) include:

  • The AMSRS Code of Professional Behaviour.
  • The Qualified Practicing Market Researcher scheme (QPMR).

Company standards (AMSRO) include:

  • The Australian Standard for Market, Opinion and Social Research (AS ISO 20252-2007).
  • The Quality Standard for Online Access Panels (QSOAP).
  • Market & Social Research Privacy Principles (M&SRPPs), an approved industry code under the Privacy Act (C’wth).

AMSRO and AMSRS require that members comply with relevant codes and standards as a condition of membership. Non-compliance results in withdrawal of membership and severely limits the ability to work, especially for government.

We are committed to upholding our codes and standards and our track record is one of working closely with the Government and regulators to ensure that industry adheres to the relevant law, guidelines and industry standards.

Q: Is self-regulation strong enough?

AMSRO and AMSRS require that members comply with relevant codes and standards as a condition of membership. Non-compliance results in withdrawal of membership and severely limits the ability to work, especially for government.

We are committed to upholding our codes and standards and our track record is one of working closely with the Government and regulators to ensure that industry adheres to the relevant law, guidelines and industry standards.

Since 31 May 2007, 169 out of a total of 32,756 complaints were forwarded to ACMA regarding calls from companies possibly identified as market researchers. This represents 0.5 per cent. We believe that the vast majority of these 169 cases did not in fact involve any breach of the Standard.

Q: What new trends are evolving in the industry?

  • Mobile phone calling
  • Collecting data via SMS
  • Collecting data through the use of social media