CMOR, the body formed in 1992 by four US trade associations for the promotion and advocacy of MR, has responded to DRNO's 3rd August interview with Simon Chadwick, CASRO Chairman, and outlined its own approach to the FTC's 'Do Not Call' legislation.
CASRO parted company with CMOR in the early summer of 2004, citing irreconcilable differences over the classification of research in relation to the Do Not Call Registry. The full text of the reply, from the Executive Committee of CMOR, is given below. More details of the two associations can be found at the end of the article.
'CMOR, the Council for Marketing and Opinion Research, would like to begin by expressing how much respect
and appreciation we have for Simon Chadwick. His guidance and support have been invaluable to the development of both CMOR and our profession in general. We very much regret CASRO's decision to part company with us. We feel strongly that any differences between the two organizations can and should be reconciled. We will continue to pursue avenues to do just that.
'CMOR sought counsel from the Federal Trade Commission because of the differences in opinion about approach and because we had received questions from our members related to the use of data lists. In response to our inquiry, the FTC sent CMOR a three page Advisory Opinion (available on CMOR's site as a pdf
that outlined the specific rights and responsibilities of survey researchers, or their clients, who wanted to purchase data lists that have been 'scrubbed' against the National Do Not Call Registry. The Commission indicated that such researchers have to register with the FTC as 'Exempt Organizations', or EOs, in order to engage in this process.
'Survey researchers, whether of their own volition or at the behest of their clients, are free to purchase scrubbed lists of data or sample. To do so legally, they must simply notify the FTC that they are viewing these scrubbed lists by registering as an Exempt Organization. This regulatory term is the source of CMOR's use of the word 'exempt' in analyzing how Do Not Call issues relate to survey research.
'CMOR publicized the Advisory Opinion so that all survey researchers clearly understood their rights in the eyes of the federal agency charged with enforcing Do Not Call.
'In Simon's August 3rd interview with MrWeb, he stated that CMOR submitted a comment to the government that stated we are commercial speech, and that CMOR's position on Do Not Call compels us to argue that survey research is commercial speech, because we are claiming to be 'exempt' from the Do Not Call law. This interpretation is incorrect. CMOR has never and will never state that survey research is commercial speech. It is NOT. We do not believe that claiming to be 'exempt' implies that we are commercial speech.
'We use the phrase 'exempt' partly because the law does, and partly because that is the status that must be obtained by survey researchers and their clients in order to remain in compliance with Do Not Call requirements. This is the 'short term' goal of CMOR: to make sure survey researchers are equipped with enough information to comply with current rules and regulations. In this case, survey researchers are able to do so and still remain exempt from any FTC regulation or interference in the realm of Do Not Call.
'Neither the FTC's Advisory Opinion nor the brief response letter from their offices contradicts this. Both are intended to ensure that the profession is 'not included' in the coverage of the DNC, in terms that regulators use that mean 'exempt'. These by regulators standards are not mutually exclusive terms.
'CMOR's 'long term' goal is to protect the rights of our profession by formally establishing principles that will prevent any future interference from state and federal governments. By working actively with state officials to protect survey research (one of CMOR's great and consistent strengths), we also seek safeguards for the profession from Congress and various federal agencies.
'The Advisory Opinion fits both our short term and long term goals: it clarified that survey research is safe from Do Not Call regulations, and it established an important regulatory principle that we can apply in the future, should anyone at the state or federal level attempt to interpret Do Not Call as being adverse to survey research.
'There is another significant example of our long-range tactics, which happens to be highly relevant to a point raised by Simon. CMOR is in the process of formulating a new Request for Advisory Opinion, which will also be submitted to the FTC. In that piece, we outline over 40 years worth of Supreme Court decisions, legislation, and FTC regulatory rulings, all of which define commercial speech in a way that does not involve survey research on any level. This is intended to put into writing research as non-commercial speech.
'Some of these definitions are inconsistent with one another; the Supreme Court in particular has a way of ignoring or glossing over some of its own historic precedents. Even so, with all the different tests the Court came up with for defining 'commercial speech', absolutely none of them would implicate survey research. Neither would any standing federal law or any regulatory opinions.
'So CMOR has synthesized these legal, legislative, and regulatory points, and will submit them to the FTC for their interpretation. It is possible that the FTC will decline to respond, or that they will reply in a way that does not fully address all the applicable points. None of these possible outcomes would in any way hurt survey research; they just wouldn't protect us as much as what we seek.
'But, the FTC could issue an Advisory Opinion stating that survey research is in fact not commercial speech. That would be an outcome we could take to Congress, either to proactively push for legislation that benefits our profession, or to ensure that we avoid becoming ensnared in any potentially negative laws.
'We agree that it is important to watch States for any legislation that could be harmful to research. We have singularly done so since our inception. We currently have a full time staff person that monitors every State in the nation and rates any potential threats. At this time there is no legislation in the hopper at the State level that would expand Do Not Call legislation to include research. We have the ability to impact such legislation prior to its formal submittal.
'CMOR will continue to do everything in our power to protect survey research from immediate threats while looking for ways to defend it against any future peril. We will continue to pursue a spirit of collaboration with CASRO with high hopes that our differences can be resolved'.
End of the CMOR reply
Background - the two associations:
CMOR was established as The Council for Marketing & Opinion Research in 1992 by four major trade associations, the AMA, the ARF, CASRO and the MRA. Its aim is to promote & advocate survey research, and specifically:
CASRO, The Council of American Survey Research Organizations, is a trade association of survey research businesses, representing over 200 companies and research operations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Founded in 1975, CASRO's purpose is to communicate, to educate, to protect, and represent.
- to improve respondent cooperation in research
- to promote positive legislation and prevent restrictive legislation which could impact the survey research industry.
The article with the Simon Chadwick interview explaining the CASRO decision to part company with CMOR can be found here: CMOR and CASRO - A Difference of Opinion