DMA OKs New Rules for Appending E-Mail Addresses

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NEW YORK -- The Direct Marketing Association approved new guidelines yesterday for appending e-mail addresses to consumer records in an announcement made at the show.

According to the document, a marketer should append a consumer's e-mail address to its database only when the consumer permits the company to add his or her e-mail address to the database.

The exceptions would be if the marketer has an established business relationship with that consumer online or offline or if reasonable efforts are taken to ensure the appending of accurate e-mail addresses to the corresponding consumer records.

A third exception is if the data used in the append process are from sources that offered notice and choice regarding the acceptance of receiving third-party e-mail offers and where the consumer did not opt out.

"Our guidelines end up being a minimum standard a marketer must follow," said Pat Kachura, the DMA's vice president of ethics and consumer affairs. She said the guidelines were meant to draw a clear line that dictionary attacks, in which a marketer would guess a customer's e-mail address, are unacceptable.

The guidelines also state marketers should not sell, rent, transfer or exchange an appended e-mail address of a consumer unless it first offers notice and choice to the consumer. All messages to an e-mail appended address must include a notice and choice to continue to communicate via e-mail.

In addition, marketers should maintain appropriate record keeping systems to comply with these recommendations that are published in the DMA's Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. Failure to follow the guidelines may result in expulsion from DMA membership and attendant bad press. Kachura said few violations led to expulsion.

"Our intention is to bring people into compliance," she said.

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