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The Market Research Society first met in November 1946 in the offices of the London Press Exchange. With just 23 founder members, the early meetings operated as a luncheon club where practitioners of market research met to learn the business and keep in touch with industry developments.

In 1954 it adopted its first Code of Standards, covering ethics, reporting and survey standards.

In 2013, MRS launched the Fair Data consumer trust mark, a global accreditation that demonstrates which companies handle their customers’ personal data fairly.



The MRS claims that, as regulator, it promotes the highest professional standards throughout the market research sector. This it does through the MRS Code of Conduct.

Key points: what it does

The most recent (current) version of the MRS Code of Conduct was released in October 2019, and advocates 12 key principles

MRS Members shall:

  1. Ensure that their professional activities can be understood in a transparent manner.
  2. Be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships.
  3. Be transparent as to the subject and purpose of data collection.
  4. Ensure that their professional activities are not used to unfairly influence views and opinions of participants.
  5. Respect the confidentiality of information collected in their professional activities.
  6. Respect the rights and well-being of all individuals.
  7. Ensure that individuals are not harmed or adversely affected by their professional activities.
  8. Balance the needs of individuals, clients, and their professional activities.
  9. Exercise independent professional judgement in the design, conduct and reporting of their professional activities.
  10. Ensure that their professional activities are conducted by persons with appropriate training, qualifications and experience.
  11. Protect the reputation and integrity of the profession.
  12. Take responsibility for promoting and reinforcing the principles and rules of the MRS Code of Conduct.

In general, the Code requires member organisations to act ethically and in accordance with the law.

In recent months, concerns have been raised that some organisations have been using research not to elicit views from the public, but as a means to shape such views. This, in theory, falls foul of rule 4, which states:

”Members must never undertake any activities, under the guise of research, which aim to manipulate, mislead or coerce individuals. This applies throughout the research process including proposal, data collection, analysis and reporting.

Examples of this activity include:

  1. Sell or market under the guise of research (‘sugging’).
  2. Fund raise under the guise of research (‘frugging’).
  3. Lobby for political purposes under the guise of research (‘plugging’).
  4. Create false media content and commentary, including social media, under the guise of research (media-mugging).”

The MRS takes complaints from businesses and individuals in respect of adverts considered to be in breach of its code of conduct. Details of their complaint process can be found on their Complaint Handling page, which also provides a link to their Complaint Form.

On the surface, ‘market research’ may sound innocuous or neutral. However, we have seen instances of activities that look suspiciously like ‘plugging’. That is, lobbying for political purposes under the guise of research.

Examples of such a practice include, in our view, surveys that ask for responders to give an opinion on surgery for children. Since this is not a thing that happens, and not advocated by any major trans organisation, our feeling is that asking such questions, and feeding the results out to the media, is at best sensationalist; at worst, a deliberate attempt to shift the Overton window.

Let us know

Please keep us in the loop. We have experience of complaining about market research; and it is good to let others know what is happening in this area. You can contact us through info@transmediawatch.org.