The SAMRA Organisation Membership of Freshly Ground Insights Global (FGI) and the related Associate Memberships have been terminated following two complaints in terms of the SAMRA Code of Conduct and Guidelines and implementation of the SAMRA Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure. The Complainant subcontracted FGI to do part of a large face-to-face consumer survey for the Complainant that they were conducting.
In the first complaint the complainant alleged that FGI was not being truthful about their reasons for interviewer non-payment, was blaming the complainant for non-payment of interviewers thereby harming the complainant’s reputation amongst interviewers and was sharing confidential information about the complainant with third parties. FGI denied breaching client confidentiality on the basis that the information in question emanated from a Complainant employee. The SAMRA Board found the following:
- In terms of Article 9 (Professional Responsibility) of the Code of Conduct (c) Researchers must be straightforward and honest in all of their professional and business dealings, FGI was found guilty: the reason given to Independent Contractors for them not getting paid was not true and creates negative perceptions not only of the complainant but also of the industry as a whole.
- In terms of Article 9 (Professional Responsibility) of the Code of Conduct (f) Researchers must conform to the generally accepted principles of fair competition, FGI was found guilty: Independent Contractors were led to believe that they were not getting paid as a result of the complainant’s actions, creating negative perceptions about the complainant and placing an unfair burden on the complainant’s resources.
- In terms of Section 10 (Confidentiality) of the Code of Conduct Guideline for Mutual Rights and Responsibilities of Researchers and Clients: The researcher must not disclose the identity of the client or any confidential information about the latter’s business, to any third party without the client’s consent… FGI was found guilty: by their own admission, their Independent Contractor had shared confidential client information with a third party. Notwithstanding where the information originated (and especially if it originated from FGI’s client who is, in this instance, the complainant), whether the receiving party already had the information, or even whether the information was accurate or not, the Independent Contractor (supervisor) acted in their capacity as a contractor of FGI and should not have communicated confidential information about the client (i.e. the complainant) with a third party – their independent contractor (interviewer).
FGI did not appeal the findings in relation to Article 9 (c) and (f), but appealed the finding in terms of Section 10, on the grounds that the information shared by FGI with a third party emanated from a complainant employee. The appeal was not upheld, and the above finding stands.
In the second complaint the complainant alleged that FGI submitted false data/interviews in that data/interviews that were submitted by FGI to the complainant throughout the project, and then submitted as final and accepted, were allegedly falsified and/or not conducted and/or not at the agreed standards. FGI allegedly did not deliver work in terms of the agreed professional services, statement of work and/or quality control processes. FGI submitted as defence that, despite the numerous challenges experienced, they endeavoured to acquiesce to the complainant’s numerous and changing instructions whilst at the same time endeavouring to collect and deliver a valid dataset. FGI denied submitting false data/interviews and denied non-delivery allegations.
The SAMRA Board found FGI guilty of the following, based on evidence of false interview data; FGI not adhering to their own and/or the client’s quality control processes; FGI warranting that work was acceptable when it was not:
- In terms of Article 7 Transparency (a) FGI did not design their research to the specification and quality agreed with the client and in accordance with Article 9(a).
- Article 9 Professional Responsibility (a) FGI did not ensure that their research is carried out in accordance with appropriate scientific research principles, methods and techniques; (b) FGI did not behave ethically and unjustifiably damaged the reputation of research; (c) FGI was not straightforward and honest in their professional and business dealings with the complainant; (e) FGI made false or otherwise misleading statements about their skills, experience and/or activities.
- Article 11 Compliance (a) FGI did not ensure that their research is carried out in accordance with this Code, that other parties to the research agree to comply with its requirements, and that the Code is applied, where appropriate, by all organisations, companies and individuals at all stages of their part of the research.
FGI did not appeal any part of the finding. However, they appealed the severity of the sanctions imposed. The appeal was not upheld, and the above finding was confirmed.