Update: Press Releases Show DMA Inconsistencies

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TORONTO - The executive board of the Direct Marketing Association has taken action against at least one company for not complying with the Privacy Promise. The board met at the fall conference here, and the information will be made public Nov. 10, DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said this week.

At first, the DMA issued a press release with a headline saying it was just one company, but information in the statement said it was more than one. When notified of the contradiction, a new press release was issued saying "member companies." Other published reports said one member was expelled from the DMA. In an interview with DM News, Wientzen would not explain the ambiguity.

"The good news is the vast majority of companies certified the promise a long time ago," he said. But there is "at least one" that would not. When asked why the DMA is being so vague and won't name the company, Wientzen said, "The board is made up of responsible business people who want to be fair and are bending over backward to be fair. The end result is that we got there. We have some sweeping up to do, but we got there."

Wientzen said the process wasn't as easy as he first thought it would be, but he's happy with how it turned out. The DMA won't release any more information until next week, after additional "due process" procedures have been completed.

Some companies that signed the Privacy Promise haven't yet complied with its individual requirements because they are dealing with Y2K and other software issues, Wientzen said.

"They've said, 'Give us till the end of the year,' " he said. "There have also been some companies that have remained silent. But even with them, we're finding it's been more about [legal or technical] issues. But we are working our way through - and in most cases, we are finding them to be like the others that are facing the same problems."

The board also voted to adopt a series of guidelines to restrict marketing use of personally identifiable health and medical information. The guidelines apply to nonprofit organizations as well as for-profit marketers.

"Personally identifiable health-related information gathered in the context of a medical care situation is a very private matter and should not be exchanged with any third party for marketing purposes without the individual's express positive consent," Wientzen said.

The guidelines, which take effect immediately, will be included as part of the DMA's Guidelines to Ethical Business Practices.

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