OTTAWA - The market research industry's watchdog is launching a full-blown investigation into a Conservative pollster involved in an alleged misinformation campaign against Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

Brendan Wycks, executive director of The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says the watchdog has received seven formal complaints of professional misconduct against Campaign Research Inc., the company behind the Cotler campaign.

Wycks says Campaign Research was given time to resolve the matter to the complainants' satisfaction but was unable to do so.

MRIA now is striking a three-member complaints panel to investigate the matter more thoroughly.

Wycks says the voluntary, self-regulatory body is also looking into suggestions that another Conservative-allied company -- Responsive Marketing Group -- may be passing itself off as a legitimate public-opinion research company, which is illegal under the Competition Act.

The MRIA has become so alarmed about the negative spillover from political telemarketing that it is updating its code of conduct to spell out that voter identification or partisan promotion cannot be conducted under the guise of market research.