DMA Adopts Advanced Consent Guidelines

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The Direct Marketing Association's board of directors adopted new guidelines this week for advanced consent marketing, in which consumers give consent to receive and pay for goods and services on a continuing or periodic basis until the consumer cancels the plan.

"This is another step that we are taking to ensure that consumers are completely informed when making a purchase," DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said. "We are confident that marketers will comply with these guidelines, which strengthen our industry's commitment to ethical responsibility and self-regulation."

The DMA said the following principles apply to all advance consent marketing plans:

· Marketers should have the consumer's advance, informed consent to participate in any marketing plan before the consumer is billed or charged.

· Marketers may provide products or services and bills concurrently, but consumers should not be obligated to pay bills prior to the expiration of any trial period.

· Marketers should inform consumers in the initial offer and in renewal reminders of their right to cancel their participation in the plan.

· Marketers should provide renewal reminders at the frequency specified in the initial offer. Marketers should allow a reasonable length of time between receipt of renewal reminders and the renewal date, before which consumers can cancel the plan.

· Marketers should honor requests for refunds promptly upon consumers' cancellation of the plan.

· Marketers should clearly disclose material terms and conditions before obtaining the consumers' consent. Such disclosure would include a description of the goods or services offered, the identity of the marketers and contact information for service or cancellation, the interval between shipments or services to be provided, and the price or the range of prices of the goods or services purchased.

Where applicable, the DMA also said the following terms and conditions should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the initial offer:

· That the current plan or renewal prices of the goods or services are subject to change.

· The length of any free trial or approval period in time or quantity.

· The length of any membership period and the length of subsequent renewal or billing periods.

· That goods or services will continue after the free period unless the consumer cancels.

· Minimum purchase obligations and terms and conditions of any refund policy.

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