DMA Releases Annual Ethics Case Report
March 9, 2010 — The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) today released its Ethics Case Report for February 2009 – February 2010. During this period, the Committee on Ethical Business Practice (“Ethics Operating”) conducted in-depth reviews of the promotions and practices of 34 companies. DMA’s Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) and Customer Service staff handled an additional 4,000 complaints and inquiries from consumers about direct and interactive marketing practices.
Based on the 34 cases that were reviewed, DMA’s CSR staff and the Ethics Operating Committee re-iterated the importance of the following ethical business practices:
· All material information should be disclosed to the consumer in every promotion. Such
disclosures should be clear, honest, and conspicuous. Consumers surprised to discover that they have unknowingly joined a program or accepted an offer are not happy consumers;
· Copy on the outer envelope of a mail piece is advertising and subject to the same ethical
standards as the promotion contained in the envelope. Unclear envelope copy undermines consumer trust in all marketing;
· Marketers should honor all requests from consumers, both customers and prospects, who
ask not to receive further solicitations, and they should include an opt-out notice in every commercial solicitation they send. DMA’s Commitment to Consumer (CCC) already requires both. The CCC also requires marketers to scrub their prospecting lists against the DMAchoice file on a monthly basis. DMAChoice (previously known as the Mail Preference Service) is a free, online consumer portal for choice in mailings from commercial marketers and nonprofit organizations. DMAchoice not only allows consumers to opt out of prospect mail offers from all DMA members, but also to choose to opt out of individual organizations or listed brands of DMA members. Learn more at www.dmachoice.org;
· Marketers should not tout their products or services as environmentally-friendly, nor should
they disparage or make specific claims about the environmental impact or benefits of a particular form or channel of communication, without first having reliable and, as necessary, scientific data to support those claims. (The term “greenwashing” speaks to a growing trend in green marketing whereby products, policies, or practices are presented as environmentally-friendly when they are not, or when there is not sufficient substantiation to support such claims.)
The Committee also forwarded one case to appropriate state and federal agencies for potential legal violations. Specifically, FFS Storage Facility of Las Vegas, NV (a nonmember) did not respond to numerous attempts to resolve the Committee’s concerns about promotional postcards sent by FFS Storage Facility that stated “Notice: Merchandise Held for Release” and instructed recipients to check off items of merchandise that they wanted to receive and return the postcard, along with a shipping/release fee, in order to receive the merchandise. The Committee found that the company did not honestly, accurately, and clearly state the exact nature of what was being offered; the price; the terms of payment (including all extra charges); and the commitment involved in the placing of an order. The Committee also found that the company did not clearly identify itself as the sender of the postcards and provide a means for recipients to contact the company. The matter was referred to the Federal Trade Commission, United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Nevada Attorney General.
The latest Ethics Case Report, published annually by DMA’s Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) department, is available online by clicking here.
If you are aware of a promotion or practice that should be brought to the attention of one of the Ethics Committees, please contact the department staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also an online form here.
About Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
The Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org) is the leading global trade association of businesses and nonprofit organizations using and supporting multichannel direct marketing tools and techniques. DMA advocates standards for responsible marketing, promotes relevance as the key to reaching consumers with desirable offers, and provides cutting-edge research, education, and networking opportunities to improve results throughout the end-to-end direct marketing process. Founded in 1917, DMA today represents companies from dozens of vertical industries in the US and 48 other nations, including nearly half of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as nonprofit organizations.
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