Researchers hit back at claims

CLIPBOARD-wielding market researchers have hit back at claims they "pounce" on passing shoppers, stressing they have a right to ask questions.

BY James Fraser,>

CLIPBOARD-wielding market researchers have hit back at claims they "pounce" on passing shoppers, stressing they have a right to ask questions.

They have defended their trade saying they are properly trained to quiz shoppers and denied they ever harrass the public.

Town centre manager John Stebbings said last week he was looking into ancient bylaws to see if anything could be done to ban market researchers and other clipboarders from thoroughfares that can attract up to 50,000 people a day.

But market research firm Millward Brown has dismissed the planned eviction.

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Spokesman Jan Faber said: "Market research is exempt from many of the by-laws which cover direct promotion and advertising.

"Market research is a £1.5billion industry and every major company in Britain does it – including the government.

"We are an exceptionally well-regulated industry and all our researchers are highly trained professionals."

Mr Stebbings has claimed "running the gauntlet" of marketeers, charity representatives and salespeople from utilities and other firms may deter shoppers.

But market researchers representing Milward Brown, which was operating a five-strong team on Ipswich's Cornhill, launched a broadside at others who pick up a clipboard, saying they lack the proper training to avoid harrassing the public

One woman, who declined to be named, said representatives from Milward Brown were trained according to guidelines set by Interviewing Quality Control Standards – unlike others who wield clipboards in Ipswich's busy town centre streets.

"We are only asking people's opinions. We don't chase people and we understand if they don't have time. They don't have to pretend to be on the phone.

"How do you expect our clients to tailor their products to customers' needs if we don't ask questions," she added.

Another market researcher from Milward Brown said the council receive money for the hire of the town hall where customers fill in questionnaires on consumer products.

"It's not as though we're not paying anything back to the council," she said.

One charity worker thought the council, which employs Mr Stebbings, should back off.

Ruth Bryce, a 20-year-old languages student from Worcestershire who was canvassing support for international aid charity Medecins sans Frontieres, said charities were at least "giving something back" into the community.

But she hadn't had much luck – in the two days she has been posted on the Cornhill she hadn't managed to persuade one person to sign up.

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