Roy Morgan Research

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Background

Roy Morgan Research (RMR) is an Australian market research company which has offices throughout Australia as well as in New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and Indonesia. According to its website, RMR is a “proudly independent” company.[1] This claim is echoed by the tobacco industry, with British American Tobacco’s (BAT) website describing RMR as “wholly independent” with a “strong reputation for reliability and accuracy” and noting that RMR are “used and trusted by both governments… and businesses”.[2]

Relationship with the tobacco industry

RMR has historical ties to the tobacco industry, beginning with its founder; Roy Morgan, conducting surveys for Philip Morris in the 1950s.[3] RMR data was included in Philip Morris’ 1976/7 and 1977 Kent Australia marketing plans[4][5] and RMR worked for Philip Morris USA as a consultant in 2005.[6]

Philip Morris funded reports on illicit trade in Australia

In 2013, RMR prepared two reports for Philip Morris Limited on the impact of Plain Packaging in Australia on small retailers.[7][8] Both reports argued that plain packaging had a negative impact on small retailers in Australia, referring to increases in the time taken for customers to be served and for stock to be ordered as well as an increase in cases where customers were given the wrong products.[7][8] The reports also include small retailers’ personal opinions on plain packaging, which extend to views on the Government as well as on the perceived impact of plain packaging on smoker’s behaviours, as shown in image 1. Mobilising support from retailers and arguing that small businesses suffer as a result of plain packaging are tactics that the tobacco industry have used frequently.

Use of RMR research in industry funded reports on illicit tobacco in Australia

RMR research has been used in multiple tobacco industry-funded reports on illicit tobacco in Australia, released by global audit firms KPMG and Deloitte throughout the period of 2011-2016.[9][10][11][12][13][14] The reports used RMR data primarily to analyse levels of illicit tobacco use in Australia, with consumer survey findings contributing to overall estimates of illicit tobacco consumption. KPMG’s ‘illicit tobacco in Australia, 2013 Half Year Report’, for example, used RMR data to demonstrate growing levels of illicit tobacco use (Image 2):

“the level of illicit consumption grew from 11.8% to 13.3% of total consumption… the key driver of this growth has been a large increase in the consumption of illicit manufactured cigarettes… This trend is also evident… by a consumer survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research”[9]

KPMG’s research was criticised in a report on the health benefits of introducing plain packaging, published by the British Government. The report’s author, Sir Cyril Chantler, wrote that he did “not have confidence in KPMG’s assessment of the size of – or changes in – the illicit market in Australia”, referring to a KPMG report which used RMR data.[15] One 2011 Deloitte report featuring RMR data was commissioned by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, a tobacco industry funded front group.[16] It argued that RMR consumer survey data suggested that plain packaging would encourage channel shift i.e. tobacco consumers switching from small retailers to larger ones, such as supermarkets. The report acknowledged that predicting future behaviour patterns is difficult but claimed that RMR’s data provided “a basis for illustrating the potential impact” of plain packaging on small retailers.[17]

The report’s methodology and validity of its findings were criticised by Simon Chapman, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney. Based on the report’s outline of its survey, Chapman suggested that “push polling” may have occurred, whereby interview participants’ opinions were potentially manipulated by the questions that they were presented with. He was also sceptical of focus groups that were conducted with small retailers, arguing that those questioned lacked an understanding of how plain packaging would work in practice stating that: “The information contained in this report can only suggest that those interviewed were not given a full account of what plain packaging would look like”.[18]

Deloitte and KPMG analyses of RMR data also featured in two reports by the International Tax and Investment Center and Oxford Economics on the illicit tobacco trade in Asia, as well as Australia. Both were funded by affiliates of PMI: ‘Asia-11’ by Philip Morris Asia[19] and ‘Asia-14’ by PMI Management S.A.[20] These reports have received criticism for producing inflated estimates of the size of the illicit tobacco trade and for lacking methodological transparency.[21][22]

Image 2. Snip taken from KPMG’s ‘llicit tobacco in Australia, 2013 Half Year Report’ (p44)[9] that identifies RMR research as a data source.

BAT use of RMR research to oppose plain packaging regulation in the UK

In a January 2015 press release,[2] BAT referred to RMR research in order to argue against the implementation of Plain Packaging in the UK. ‘Our response to UK government’s decision on plain packaging ahead of general election’ claimed that plain packaging had not benefitted public health in Australia. In addition to arguing that plain packaging increased levels of illicit trade in Australia, BAT also stated that both youth and adult smoking rates had not seen a decline following its implementation. To support the claim regarding adult smoking rates, BAT referred to RMR monthly figures for adult smoking prevalence:

“Their monthly figures for adult (18+) smoking prevalence show a long-standing decline trend that has not accelerated since the introduction of Plain Packaging. In fact, the trend for the year 2013 shows a 1.8% annual increase.”

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Relevant Link

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Notes

  1. Roy Morgan Research, About Roy Morgan Research, undated, accessed January 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 British American Tobacco,Our response to UK government’s decision on plain packaging ahead of general election, 22 January 2015, accessed January 2017
  3. Roy Morgan, Roy Morgan – Founder, undated, accessed January 2017
  4. Philip Morris, Kent Australia 1976/77, 1976, Bates no: 87266969-87266995, accessed January 2017
  5. Philip Morris, Australia Marketing Plan, 1977, 1977, Bates no: 87267087-87267111, accessed January 2017
  6. Philip Morris USA, Roy Morgan Research, Roy Morgan Contract, 24 October 2005, accessed January 2017, Bates no: 3039313826-3039313833
  7. 7.0 7.1 Roy Morgan Research, Impact of Plain Packaging on Small Retailers, 25 January 2013, accessed January 2017
  8. 8.0 8.1 Roy Morgan Research, Impact of Plain Packaging on Small Retailers – Wave 2, 30 September 2013, accessed January 2017
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 KPMG, Illicit tobacco in Australia: 2013 half year report, October 2013, accessed January 2017
  10. KPMG, Illicit tobacco in Australia: 2014 Half Year Report, 13 October 2014, accessed January 2017
  11. KPMG, Illicit Tobacco in Australia: 2015 Full Year Report, 15 April 2016, accessed December 2016
  12. Deloitte, Illicit trade of tobacco in Australia, February 2011, accessed December 2016
  13. Deloitte, Illicit trade of tobacco in Australia: Report for 2011, May 2012, accessed January 2017
  14. Deloitte, Illicit trade of tobacco in Australia: Update for 2012 , December 2012, accessed January 2017
  15. Sir Cyril Chantler,Standardised packaging of tobacco. Report of the independent review undertaken by Sir Cyril Chantler, April 2014, accessed January 2017
  16. A. Davies, Big Tobacco hired public relations firm to lobby government, 11 September 2010, accessed January 2017
  17. Deloitte, Alliance of Australian Retailers: Plain packaging and channel shift, June 2011, accessed January 2017
  18. S. Chapman, Why is Deloitte’s name on junk tobacco research?, ABC News, 9 July 2011, accessed December 2016
  19. International Tax and Investment Center, Oxford Economics, Asia-11 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2012, September 2013, accessed January 2017
  20. International Tax and Investment Center, Oxford Economics, Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2013, September 2014, accessed January 2017
  21. J. Chen, S. M. McGhee, J. Townsend, T. H. Lam, A. J. Hedley, Did the tobacco industry inflate estimates of illicit cigarette consumption in Asia? An empirical analysis, Tobacco Control, 2014, 24, 161-167 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051937
  22. H. Ross, A Critique of the ITIC/OE Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2013, 20 May 2015, accessed January 2017