National Accident Helpline and seven inaugural law firm signatories launched the Ethical Marketing Charter on Monday 20 July with widespread backing from across the political spectrum, regulators and representative bodies. The new industry-led initiative aims to promote ethical and professional marketing practices in the personal injury sector, stamp out bad practice by rogue operators (including cold calling) and ensure consumers are more adequately protected.
Signatories to the Charter all formally and publicly commit to stand firmly against:
- Nuisance marketing – they never cold call or send spam texts or spam emails.
- The unethical buying and selling of accident data – they never misuse accident data to pressure people into making a claim.
- Misleading advertising – they never induce personal injury claims by making false or misleading promises in their advertising, and are clear and upfront about any exclusions to the no win, no fee arrangements which fund the majority of claims.
The Ethical Marketing Charter was developed in response to the growth in cold calling, trading of personal information and misleading advertising by rogue players from numerous industry sectors, including the personal injury sector – all of which can harm consumers and leave them angry, harassed and vulnerable, as recent media coverage demonstrates.
Nuisance marketing has come under particular scrutiny in recent months, with the regulator Ofcom finding that a staggering 86% of people receive at least one call every four weeks and a number of media reports exposing the harmful effect that cold calls can have upon the most vulnerable in society.
The extent of the problem has seen government and regulators begin to take action – with the Information Commissioner's powers to impose fines on cold callers being strengthened and the Insurance Fraud Taskforce set to investigate the link between unethical marketing practices and fraud. However, political will alone is not enough. As a sector which is often singled out for unethical marketing practices – the personal injury sector itself must take decisive steps to eradicate these practices.
Working with other sector leaders, National Accident Helpline has developed the Charter in order to take a firm stand against unethical marketing – demonstrating their collective commitment to tackling harmful practices and also challenging others in the sector to reform their approach.
Speaking about the launch of the Charter, Russell Atkinson, CEO of National Accident Helpline, said:
"As a leading firm in the personal injury sector, National Accident Helpline believes that it is time for the industry to take a proactive approach to stamping out bad practice and to provide greater protections for consumers.
We all recognise that marketing in a responsible, ethical way is best practice and this Charter will help to ensure that it's the only viable way for those working in the personal injury sector to approach consumers."
Consumers will be able to report any breaches of the Charter's principles to its administrator, National Accident Helpline, which will facilitate a resolution between the signatory and the consumer and, if appropriate, report the signatory to the relevant regulator.
Commenting on the launch of the Charter Simon Tunnicliffe Head of CMCs, Legal Ombudsman said:
"The Legal Ombudsman is here to work with stakeholders to raise standard across the CMC industry and we welcome any initiative that attempts to raise standards".
Jonathan Wheeler, President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said:
"APIL is a strong supporter of ethical marketing initiatives and we therefore welcome the development of this charter."
Kevin Rousell from the Claims Management Regulator said:
"The Claims Management Regulator has been working hard to ensure that CMCs behave in an ethical and responsible manner. Any steps by the industry itself that may help improve practices and raise standards are to be welcomed. Bad conduct plagues the reputation of the claims management sector and all CMCs should commit to stamping out bad practice."
Andrew Tucker, Group Chief Executive, Irwin Mitchell said:
"Irwin Mitchell has always operated with the highest levels of integrity and professional standards. We are resolute about maintaining those standards as a regulated law firm whilst supporting those who seek to raise standards across the claims management sector where appropriate. We are happy to back a move which seeks to end nuisance marketing."