DMA Politically Direct (Winter 2008): DMA's State Report
March 5, 2008 ó This year promises to be another busy year for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) on the state legislative front for issues that affect multichannel direct marketing. A sampling of key issues in 2008 follows.
Do Not Mail
The year began with seven states carrying over nine Do Not Mail bills from their 2007 sessions. In January, four more states introduced bills: Hawaii (a House companion to the Senateís existing bill), Maryland (a House bill similar to last yearís Senate bill), New Hampshire (House), and Tennessee (Senate). However, the Maryland and Tennessee bills were withdrawn within weeks of their introduction.
The New Hampshire bill was heard in the House Commerce Committee in late January, where a number of postal union, small business, and printing industry representatives testified in opposition. The committee decided on a 14-1 vote to designate the bill "inexpedient to legislate," which is the stateís version of a "no" vote. The full House took the same action in \ February. One of the billís co-sponsors was quoted in a news item as saying that prior to the hearing, she had been unaware of the negative effects the bill would have on state jobs, and admitting that the measure was "probably premature."
The Vermont House bill, carried over from 2007, was heard in committee in early February. Representatives from Forest Ethics, the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, Vermont PIRG, and bill sponsor Rep. Chris Pearson testified in support of the bill. Representatives from the US Postal Service in Vermont, two postmasters, the Vermont Attorney Generalís office, an envelope manufacturer, and the Rural Letter Carriers Union testified in opposition. The committee has taken no further action on the bill.
DMA has worked with members of the Mail Moves America coalition to organize the testimony in both New Hampshire and Vermont.
Mail Moves America
The recent legislative successes on the state Do Not Mail issue demonstrate the benefits of the coordination that the Mail Moves America coalition provides the mailing community. Each coalition member, including founding member DMA, brings its particular talents and resources to the effort. Working together to determine the best use of these resources provides a strong voice to educate policymakers on how direct mail benefits consumers, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local economies.
Now more than ever, the coalitionís work is vitally important, as various environmental, anti-consumerism, and philanthropic organizations mobilize to push Do Not Mail legislation in the states. The importance of the mailing communityís work in defense of the mail channel becomes all the more vital in light of the fact that much of the media coverage of these efforts provides a negative viewpoint on direct mail.
To learn more about Mail Moves America, how you can get involved, and the status of legislation, visit www.mailmovesamerica.org.
Data Security/ID Theft
The increase in security breaches, and the intense media coverage that frequently ensues, have fueled consumer and policymaker concerns about identity (ID) theft and data security.
Consequently, states without data breach notification and/or security freeze statutes are attempting to pass them, while those with such measures in place are attempting to strengthen them.
In particular, there is new interest in regulating the storage of payment data. Several states are considering measures prohibiting storage of such data after a transaction is completed, and/or making a breached entity that fails to meet industry standards for data storage and encryption liable for damages and costs to affected financial institutions.
Additionally, there are many state bills seeking to protect the use, disclosure, and storage of Social Security numbers (SSNs). These proposals range from requiring redaction of SSNs and other personal information in all public records, to severely restricting the business use of SSNs.
The increase of available information about consumersí social and product preferences derived from their Web activity has fueled a policy debate on whether that data can be exchanged, traded, or sold. It also has raised the question: To what extent should consumers be able to control how this data is collected and employed?
Consequently, there is an increased state interest in empowering consumers to opt in and opt out of data sharing. One example of this type of legislation is the proposed establishment of state Do Not Sell lists. Another is prohibition against the sharing of nonpublic information between businesses.
Other privacy concerns for state legislators are the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, biometric information, and data obtained via the electronic scanning of driversí licenses and other identification cards.
Telephone marketing continues to be regulated in response to consumer complaints. There are state bills to limit hours when calls can be made and to prohibit weekend calls. Other proposals would expand the reach of state Do Not Call lists. Also, the current election season has led to complaints from constituents about political calls, especially automated political calls, or "robo calls."
In 2007, California passed a bill that allowed consumers to request cash refunds for gift cards with a value of less than $10. Since then, several other states have introduced similar legislation. The proposals range from requiring refunds for amounts less than $5, less than $10, up to 50 percent of the value, and the entire value.
Measures to regulate promotions and incentives continue to be the focus of state legislators and regulators, including proposals that ban promotional checks, require state specific disclosures, and require payment of a rebate at time of sale.
Recalls of unsafe consumer products made in China and elsewhere have led to state bills concerning product safety and regulation of toxic substances.
Many of the bills mirror current federal regulations. However, others propose a variety of new rules, such as requiring the disclosure of every ingredient in certain products, or authorizing the state to go beyond federal regulations and ban the sale of all products containing chemicals deemed dangerous or toxic by a designated state agency.
Products containing lead and products designed for children are particular targets. This is not only a concern for products offered for sale, but also for premiums typically offered by direct marketers.
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