Compliance Is Everybody's BusinessFocus USA president Chicca D'Agostino must have consulted a crystal ball before speaking at the Direct Marketing Association's List Vision conference two weeks ago. She and fellow panelist Chris Paradysz, CEO of ParadyszMatera, warned that the Federal Trade Commission was looking at list companies and their practices, and D'Agostino described the FTC's extensive investigation of a list owner she knows.
Bam! A week later, the FTC announced a settlement with three list management companies, charging that they aided in illegal marketing of advance-fee credit products. D'Agostino tells DM News that the company she mentioned is not connected to this settlement, so more federal action may be on the way. It's not unexpected. If you recall, the FTC's Howard Beales warned the industry nearly two years ago that the commission was "very interested in pursuing investigations involving lists and list brokers."
Peter Carney, president of Carney Direct, which was one of the companies involved last week, said this should serve as a wake-up call to the industry to watch what it's doing. Even the Direct Marketing Association sounded more scolding than usual in its press release regarding the matter: "Members have the responsibility to appropriately manage the complexity of this newly heavily regulated environment." The DMA also referenced its guidelines for ethical business practice. You can read all 51 of them at www.the-dma.org or peruse the pertinent one in this case on page 42. The DMA says it is working on new guidelines, but it needs to hurry up because you can bet that the FTC won't wait until next year before another ball drops. And if you think the government has any qualms about putting this burden on struggling businesses, think again. Remember that little thing called the national do-not-call list? The list industry could be at the same stage telemarketers were a decade or so ago.
Speaking of the DMA, new president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. was notably absent from the headlines last week, his first week on the job. If you were expecting to read a Q&A with him in DM News or another trade publication, think again. We've been told he is meeting other members and is too busy for the trade press right now. Wouldn't the best way to communicate your message to as many members as quickly as possible be to have a press conference or one-on-ones with the media that cover this industry? Guess not. We'll let you know when he fits us into his schedule.