MRS is  seeking clarification and assurances from G4S following allegations that prisoners are involved in sugging - selling under the guise of research.

In August 2013, the Daily Mail and the BBC reported that G4S is employing prisoners to conduct phone interviews with home owners on behalf of an unnamed market research company. 

You can read the full story here:'Questions raised over 'market research' prison work scheme'.

Responding to concerns raised that these practices impact negatively on the reputation of the research sector, MRS contacted G4S' CEO Ashley Almanza.

The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, was copied into the letter, which was sent by email. You can see the email in full below.


A response from G4S states that prisoners are not involved in sugging but rather in conducting "a consumer lifestyle survey - a series of simple questions about people's spending choices across a range of areas (including utilities, insurance and pensions) on behalf of our commercial partner, a data collection specialist." You can read the full response here.

G4S will not name the partner, but have confirmed that they are not an MRS member.

In her second letter sent on 28 August, Jane Frost, MRS chief executive replied with the following:

"I am afraid your letter fails to give me sufficient information to reassure me that the practice in which you are engaged would not fall under the general definition of 'sugging'.

"So called 'lifestyle surveys' are labels often used to lead respondents into the mistaken belief that the survey is genuine market research. The respondent is unaware that his or her information is being used by a commercial third party to generate sales leads, or even being sold on to a further commercial third party to exploit.

"Whilst we would obviously prefer that the public are protected by knowing that your telephone call handlers are properly trained, and subject to proper professional oversight, we would at least like to be reassured that the words 'market research', 'research', 'survey' or any other phrases which might mislead as to the purpose of the exercise, are not used in your scripts, that you are clearly identifying the company behind the commercial data collection exercise and that you are clearly explaining to respondents the commercial usage to which their data will be put."

MRS awaits a further response from G4S.

First letter sent to G4S 22 August.

Dear Mr Almanza

I have read with some concern the article in the Daily Mail
about the use of prisoners in so called "market research".

I note in your company's response that the prisoners are not involved in sugging. However, reputable market research companies and individuals are members of the Market Research Society (MRS). As such, they operate under a very strict Code of Conduct which, inter alia, ensures the privacy and rights of respondents are strictly protected and guaranteed adherence to both law and regulation in the area of data protection and other government requirements.

I would like to understand under what auspices this activity is being undertaken and what assurances you can give me as
to the standards under which you are operating.

Yours sincerely

Jane Frost CBE, 
Chief Executive Officer, MRS

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