What to Watch for in Washington: DMA EVP Linda Woolley Keynotes at the Direct Marketing Club of New York
March 2, 2010 — At a luncheon meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY) yesterday at the Yale Club in NYC, DMA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Linda A. Woolley gave a keynote presentation entitled “Direct from Washington: The Impact of Federal Legislation on Direct & Interactive Marketers.”
“Part of our job in Washington is not just to tell you when something actually gets written on a piece of paper and introduced in Congress,” Woolley explained. “It’s to tell you of things we see on the horizon, emerging trends and what people are murmuring about. . . . These are some of the things that are percolating out there and a lot of our job is to let you know that.”
Woolley’s talk touched on the most important issues and developments to watch for in Washington.
Key among them were:
- The Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA)
- Proposed Expansion of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Authority
- Developments in Online Privacy and Data Security
- The Postal Service
CFPA and the Proposed Expansion of FTC Authority
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), Woolley explained, is a new independent watchdog agency created by the Obama Administration with regulatory and enforcement authority over consumer financial products. The agency has the potential for regulating far beyond financial services, potentially affecting advertisers and marketers providing services to that sector.
Importantly, the CFPA also expands the rulemaking and enforcement authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “This issue is really, really serious for marketers,” Woolley explained. “The FTC is the primary regulatory agency for marketers.”
However, Woolley pointed out there is now an exemption for marketing activities in a bill that came out of the House. The bad news, she explained, is that the exemption is subject to the discretion of the director of this consumer agency. “So we’re not out of the woods,” Woolley said. “We are working on this piece of legislation as it makes its way through the Senate. We are hopeful that we can make this exemption stick.”
Online Privacy and Data Security
The FTC, Woolley continued, has been holding a series of Exploring Privacy workshops. “I’m happy to say that the Direct Marketing Association was the only trade association invited to participate as a witness to present testimony. . . The FTC did do a great job in providing a forum, but there are many more conversations that need to take place on this issue. One of the things we say is that so much of what we do in the marketing arena is not sensitive information, it’s marketing information – our mantra is that marketing information should be exempt from a lot of these concerns.”
In the arena of data security, two bills have been introduced — one passed the House and the other is making its way through the Senate — to create a national standard for data security and breach notification. “DMA was very involved in helping to write that legislation,” Woolley said. “We are quite pleased with the definitions that they’ve come up with. And hopefully that will get passed by the Senate and that will be done.”
Woolley pointed out the vital economic importance of advertising mail, specifically to the United States Postal Service (USPS). “Advertising mail is conservatively 70 percent of the USPS budget,” she explained. “If you take away advertising mail, as proposed in do-not-mail legislation, you are looking at a huge revenue loss for the postal service, and a huge revenue loss for jobs for suppliers to the postal service.”
The USPS had a terrible year last year, with revenue and volume down significantly, and these problems continue into this year. In the short term, Woolley said, the economic viability of the Postal service will depend on the ability of Congress to step in and make some changes.
One action being considered is the change from six-day to five-day delivery. Although DMA has no official position on six-day as opposed to five-day mail delivery, Woolley expressed concerns about how marketers and mailers would be affected. “Whatever happens, we have said that we have great apprehension about this.”
DMA has a new website called dmaaction.org, which is a legislative action center. Woolley urged attendees to become as informed as possible, and to be proactive. “You can go to the site to find out up-to-the-minute information about regulations and legislation, you can get analysis on proposals, and you can take action and actually contact your member of Congress. I hope you will take the time to do that,” she emphasized. “A lot of times people discount letters to members of Congress. But they really serve an important function.”
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