This story slipped in under the radar recently, but it is important that it gets more exposure. Freedom of Information requests recently revealed that police departments in Britain are routinely paying marketing companies huge fees to carry out ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys. The cost of these surveys is around £1,000,000 per year.
Beyond the obvious complaints about taxpayers’ money being used for this rather than frontline policing, more concerning is the fact that the police are handing over the contact details of approximately 30,000 people per month who have been in touch with the police.
The practice was revealed after Jonathan Hall received an unsolicited phone call six weeks after calling 999 to report a violent altercation in Guildford. He was angry to discover that police had passed on his details to Bostock Marketing Group without his consent. Mr Hall, 24, from Hove in Sussex, said:
“A man who spoke very poor English rang me six weeks after the incident and asked how I had been treated by the police. I was stunned and wanted to know how he had got my details. He told me they had come from Surrey Police.”
After the call, he decided to submit FOI requests to fifteen police forces, and was shocked by the results. Surrey Police spent £108,000 on the surveys, only topped by the Metropolitan Police who spent £176,000.
A Surrey Police spokesman said:
“The Home Office requires us to carry out customer satisfaction surveys. Satisfaction levels have risen to 85 percent because we listen to feedback and act on it.”
While it may be beneficial for police to receive feedback on their performance, it is unacceptable for them to pass on the details of 30,000 innocent people every month to market research companies without their express permission. This needs to stop now.