ICC Document & publication

ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market and Social Research

The publishing of this Code is intended to foster public confidence and to demonstrate practitioners’ recognition of their ethical and professional responsibilities in carrying out market research.

The first Code of Marketing and Social Research Practice was published by ESOMAR in 1948. This was followed by a number of codes produced by national bodies and by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In 1976 ICC and ESOMAR agreed that it would be preferable to have a single international code instead of two differing ones and a joint ICC/ESOMAR Code was published the following year 1977. This was revised and updated in 1986 and 1994, making the current version the fourth edition of the ICC/ESOMAR Code, under a slightly altered title.

Effective communication between the providers and consumers of goods and services of all kinds is essential to any modern society. There are many methods of gathering information, and the channels available are multiplying with the development and use of internet-based technologies and other interactive media. One of the most important methods of gathering information is by using market research, which in this Code is taken to include social and opinion research. Market research depends for its success on public confidence – that it is carried out honestly, objectively and without unwelcome intrusion or disadvantage to its participants. The publishing of this Code is intended to foster public confidence and to demonstrate practitioners’ recognition of their ethical and professional responsibilities in carrying out market research.

The self-regulatory framework responsible for implementing this Code has been successfully in place for many years. The use of codes of this nature and their implementation have been referred to and accepted as best practice worldwide, as a recognised means of providing an additional layer of consumer protection.

This Code is designed primarily as a framework for self-regulation. With this in mind, ICC/ESOMAR recommend the worldwide use of the Code, which intends to fulfill the following objectives:

  • To set out the ethical rules which market researchers shall follow;
  • To enhance the public’s confidence in market research by emphasising the rights and safeguards to which they are entitled under this Code;
  •  To emphasise the need for a special responsibility when seeking the opinions of children and young people;
  • To safeguard freedom for market researchers to seek, receive and impart information (as embodied in article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights);
  • To minimise the need for governmental and/or inter-governmental legislation or regulation.

KEY FUNDAMENTALS OF THE CODE

The Code is based on these key fundamentals:

  1. Market researchers shall conform to all relevant national and international laws.
  2. Market researchers shall behave ethically and shall not do anything which might damage the reputation of market research.
  3. Market researchers shall take special care when carrying out research among children and young people.
  4. Respondents’ cooperation is voluntary and must be based on adequate, and not misleading, information about the general purpose and nature of the project when their agreement to participate is being obtained and all such statements shall be honoured.
  5. The rights of respondents as private individuals shall be respected by market researchers and they shall not be harmed or adversely affected as the direct result of cooperating in a market research project.
  6. Market researchers shall never allow personal data they collect in a market research project to be used for any purpose other than market research.
  7. Market researchers shall ensure that projects and activities are designed, carried out, reported and documented accurately, transparently and objectively.
  8. Market researchers shall conform to the accepted principles of fair competition.