Market research is the latest victim of Russia’s spy obsession

The Bell

Amid its persistent battles against Western espionage and the driving forces behind sanctions, the State Duma has found a convenient new target — foreign firms engaged in researching Russia's consumer market. The Duma has moved to ban such companies from conducting market research, a sector where international entities have historically played a significant role.

  • According to legislation submitted to the Duma, organizations researching Russia’s consumer market can now only be Russian-registered, or majority-owned (at least 80%) by a Russian-registered company or individual. Its databases and research facilities must be kept on Russian territory and the company is obliged to disregard foreign sanctions.
  • Foreigners can own more than 20% of a Russian company, but only with the express approval of a special parliamentary commission and an agreement not to uphold sanctions. In the event of any violation, the state can nationalize the offending company.
  • Judging from their comments, the bill’s authors, influential deputy Vladimir Gutenev (believed to be a Rostec lobbyist) and Anton Gorelkin (author of the most repressive laws affecting the IT sector), believe that foreign research companies are spies and accomplices of the sanctions regime.
  • None of the three leading international research companies — GfK Group, NielsenIQ and Ipsos — have left Russia, Gorelkin noted. “We don’t know how they are using the information they gather,” wrote the deputy. “I can’t rule out the possibility that they are putting it into analytical reports for foreign governments. It is highly likely that this analysis is used to manipulate and refine illegal sanctions.”

Why the world should care

The expulsion of Western market researchers is another brick in the wall of Russia’s economic isolation. It will enable the authorities to hide more data while preventing businesses from properly understanding the market and planning accordingly.


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