Newspaper Reveals Its DNC ViolationsThe Hartford Courant, which in 2003 exposed the fact that 11 Direct Marketing Association executives were registered for the national do-not-call list, paid $36,000 to settle a state DNC complaint, the newspaper revealed in a story yesterday.
In a settlement with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, the Courant also agreed to avoid future violations of the state's DNC list. It was the largest penalty the state had ever imposed under its 4-year-old no-call law, the newspaper reported.
The state received 18 complaints of violations by the Courant, Claudette Carveth, spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection, told DM News. The state charges $2,000 per violation.
The newspaper paid the penalty in September 2004, but no formal announcement of the settlement was ever made. The story came to light only after the Courant's news staff checked with state officials.
According to the Courant story, news staffers were tipped off by a reader who saw a report to the state's General Assembly that detailed penalties assessed by the state under its no-call law. Others targeted by Connecticut for DNC enforcement penalties include ADT/Home Life Security, owned by Tyco International Ltd., and Access Resource, operators of the Miss Cleo psychic hotline, the story said.
"The settlement is between the Hartford Courant and the state of Connecticut," Vivian Chow, vice president for human resources and corporate affairs for the Courant, told DM News. "I didn't see a need to do a press release on that."
Most complaints occurred between 2001 and 2003, with one occurring in early 2004, Chow said. They represented a small percentage of the 70,000 contacts the Courant makes monthly, she said.
No DNC complaints stemming from the Courant's telemarketing have occurred since early 2004, Chow said. The newspaper has been cooperating with the state.
The Courant gained the notice of the direct marketing industry in October 2003 amid a court battle over the launch of the national no-call list. A Courant reporter discovered that an online system allowing consumers to confirm their registration to the list also could be used to check whether any person was registered to the list, provided that their phone number was known.
Using this method, the Courant reported a story revealing that several DMA executives and the CEOs of Convergys and West, both teleservices providers, were on the no-call list. One DMA executive found to be on the list was Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president for government affairs, though Cerasale said someone had registered his number without his knowledge.
Telemarketers have expressed displeasure with the tone of news coverage about the industry since the launch of the national list, and many have noted that newspapers depend on telemarketing for their circulation. However, Chow said there was a "bright line" between the news staff and the paper's business personnel.
"The news side needs to report what it considers to be newsworthy," Chow said. "On the business side, we need to do what we need to do to bring in subscribers."
Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters