ERA Promises Aggressive Self-Regulation Under New Program

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The Electronic Retailing Association yesterday announced a program for DRTV marketing aimed at uncovering bad actions in the industry and reporting them to the government.

Under "The ERA Self Regulatory Program," investigations will be completed within 60 days of a complaint, said Barbara Tulipane, ERA president/CEO. Complaints found to be substantial will be forwarded for action by the Federal Trade Commission, which has promised to give extra scrutiny to cases referred by the ERA review body.

No specific incident inspired the ERA to create the program, Tulipane said. The association has worked to improve self-regulation for several years at the insistence of its members.

"Our members demanded it," she said. "They're very tired of bad marketers giving the industry a bad name."

The ERA wanted to ensure that the program would be free to act independently, Tulipane said. To that end, the ERA selected the National Advertising Review Council to run the program and review DRTV shows.

Founded in 1971 by national advertising trade groups and the Council of Better Business Bureaus, NARC is an independent self-regulatory body that sets policy for its two branches, the National Advertising Division and the Children's Advertising Review Unit.

Under the ERA self-regulatory program, NARC will create another division to investigate claims made via DRTV advertising and assess supporting scientific evidence. Marketers will have 15 days to produce substantial scientific evidence of their claims or else have their cases forwarded to the FTC.

Information from the reviews will be made public so that DRTV support industries, such as teleservices and fulfillment centers, will be able to steer clear of problem marketers, Tulipane said. The ERA also will encourage cable and broadcast networks to reject advertising that has been flagged by the program.

"They need to do that," she said. "They need to protect their viewers."

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