Group backpedals on Ipsos-Reid criticism

Under threat of legal action, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) is offering an apology and a retraction to Ipsos-Reid after accusing the market research firm of being “significantly out of step” in its IT predictions.

“We apologize and retract without reservation any statement in our communication that may be perceived as calling into question the professionalism or competency of Ipsos-Reid,” reads ITAC’s statement on its Web site.

According to John Wright, Ipsos-Reid’s Toronto-based vice-president, public affairs, his company is “very satisfied” with ITAC’s statement. “As soon as we [voiced] our concerns to them, they acted appropriately,” he said. We do not doubt that Ipsos-Reid’s study was entirely accurate and based on sound methodology.ITACText

ITAC is an industry association representing nearly 1,300 Canadian high-tech firms. The organization did not respond to a request for comment on this issue before press time.

The story begins earlier this month, when Ipsos-Reid released its study entitled 2005 IT Vendor Roadmap to Buyer Dynamics, in which the market research company predicted Canadians would spend less on tech this year than last.

Based on a survey of 603 companies, Ipsos-Reid concluded that Canadians would spend $44.6 billion on hardware, software and digital security measures in 2005, down from $45.1 billion spent in 2004.

On March 15, ITAC president Bernard Courtois sent an e-mail message to ITAC’s members, disputing Ipsos-Reid’s findings. The missive points to numbers from IDC Canada Ltd., an IT research firm, that suggest Canadians will spend more money on tech infrastructure this year compared to last, not less.

Courtois’ message questions the validity of Ipsos-Reid’s publication. “This study is significantly out of step with data that ITAC and many of its members have received from IDC.”

That was March 15. According to Wright from Ipsos-Reid, his company had its solicitors Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP send a letter to ITAC three days later, “which spelled out our concerns and suggested how they (ITAC) should respond to it.”

Wright said ITAC had until March 23 to respond or the organization would face a lawsuit. Asked about specific concerns, he said: “They were addressed basically in the apology.” ITAC published the retraction online March 22.

The apology says ITAC didn’t mean to question Ipsos-Reid’s accuracy, methodology, professionalism or competency. It says Ipsos-Reid’s study “can be useful to our members,” and Ipsos-Reid is “a highly respected market research and public opinion polling firm.”

Asked if Ipsos-Reid would take aim at IDC Canada for what appeared in Courtois’ letter, Wright said no. “It wasn’t that IDC attacked us publicly….We took offence to the fact that this interpretation had been characterized in a certain way and sent to an entire population.”

Michael O’Neil, IDC Canada’s general manager, said ITAC’s retraction clears up a dispute between ITAC and Ipsos-Reid, but it doesn’t change everything.

“Bernard, correctly, I think, said, ‘It was never our intention to paint you in a bad light as a research house.’ On the other hand at no point in the initial statement or the apology does he agree with the Ipsos position that the industry is shrinking, nor should he, because it’s not, in our opinion and the shared opinion of most of the participants in the industry.”

Wright said Ipsos-Reid has sent letters similar to the one it sent to ITAC perhaps a dozen times in the last 15 years. Only once has the market research company taken things to “the next level,” a lawsuit.

“I don’t mind someone questioning our findings,” Wright said. “I don’t mind someone questioning our methodology. That’s standard. But we draw the line at anything that would insinuate that we have falsely achieved those results, or that the matter can’t be defended in a public domain. I think that’s what bothered us about that original (ITAC) correspondence. It made some accusations that were simply over the line.”

— With files from Tom Venetis

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