Atop the MRA Government Affairs agenda
- TCPA – The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits using any form of autodialer to call a cell phone without express prior consent – one of the only provisions in the law not focused merely on telemarketing. With more than 40% of U.S. households only reachable by cell phone, the TCPA presents a huge threat to the continued use of telephone research. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed in 2010 to tighten the requirements to express written prior consent. MRA seeks an exclusion for survey and opinion research from the autodialer/cell phone restrictions of the TCPA.
- Data privacy – The ability to collect, use and share consumers’ information, key to survey and opinion research, is under threat from numerous comprehensive data privacy bills in Congress (e.g., Rep. Rush’s Best Practices Act, Sen. Kerry’s Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act, and Rep. Stearns’ Consumer Privacy Protection Act) as well as proposed comprehensive privacy regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Commerce. This also includes interest in restrictions on online behavioral tracking, including proposals for state or federal do not track registries. In all these cases, legislators and regulators have shown little interest in providing special treatment for research and MRA seeks some form of baseline privacy protections that will still allow for research to be conducted.
- Respondent misclassification - Legislators and regulators frequently seek to redefine survey research respondents who receive incentives as employees of research firms instead of as independent contractors, through either labor or tax regulations and laws. MRA supports the Research Fairness Act and other efforts to clarify that research respondents are independent contractors.
- Data security - Forty-seven different states have conflicting laws requiring certain data security standards and procedures for notifying consumers in case of a security breach. Congress has considered numerous pieces of legislation on the topic in recent years, but concerns about jurisdiction between committees in both the House and Senate have prevented passage of a federal standard that would preempt the patchwork of state laws. MRA regularly advocates for circumspection in such legislation, to ensure that common research data does not get treated the same way as sensitive information that might be subject to identity theft or other crimes.
- Push polling and political calls – The term “push poll” refers to a political advocacy telephone call designed to “push” a voter away from a particular candidate or issue and toward another – it bears no relation to a legitimate, scientific poll. A persuasion call under the guise of a poll is a particularly unethical and deceptive activity. MRA advocates laws and regulations that demand transparency of political advocacy calls and protect legitimate political and public opinion research calls (including message testing).
- Automated telephone research (robo-polls) - Consumer concern about annoying or un- or mis-identified automated political calls (aka, “robocalls”), has driven legislators to seek to restrict them by either requiring a live operator to introduce the calls, requiring prior express consent, or making them subject to do-not-call registries just like telemarketing calls. Several states already do. Sometimes such restrictions are targeted specifically at political robocalls and sometimes political calls are exempted. MRA seeks to protect all automated research calls, although requirements along the lines of MRA’s recommended best practices for automated research would be fine.
- Physician incentives - Critics of pharmaceutical and medical device companies’ “gifts” to health care providers have driven legislation requiring public reporting of any payments from such companies to health care providers. Some legislators have gone as far as to ban payments altogether. Several states’ existing laws/regulations explicitly include marketing research payments for participation in marketing research studies. Manufacturers generally do not conduct research in any state requiring reporting of, or banning, payments, unless marketing research incentives have been explicitly excluded. MRA has managed to get research incentives excluded in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the federal Sunshine Act. Since the passage of the Sunshine Act in 2010, states have been reluctant to pass new laws of this nature. MRA seeks to exclude research from any pending legislation and from existing state laws.