Protecting consumers and our industry

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Now, more than ever, if we are to remain responsible list and data providers, we need to take a proactive stance screening the telemarketing scripts, mail promotions and e-mail messages of our clients before providing names, telephone numbers, addresses or e-mail addresses.

In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission charged three list management companies for aiding telemarketers in the marketing of advance fee credit products, which are illegal under the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The FTC position is clear and unyielding. Those of us who provide lists share at least some responsibility for knowing what promotion will be communicated to those lists, and especially for knowing when the script or promotion violates the TSR.

Additionally, the FTC is not limiting its involvement to just telemarketing offers. Those who provide lists to marketers promoting products via e-mail can also be held responsible for reviewing promotions.

To avoid potential problems, we need to strictly adhere to the Direct Marketing Association guidelines.

The guidelines require that list owners, brokers, managers, compilers and users of marketing lists "ascertain the nature of the list's intended usage for each materially different marketing use prior to rental, sale, exchange, transfer or use of the list."

Further, list professionals should not permit the use of lists in violation of the DMA Ethical Guidelines.

We are required to evaluate promotions and not accept fraudulent, deceptive or illegal mail pieces. Many offers that require scrutiny, including credit repair and loan scams, get rich quick schemes, rapid weight loss claims, bogus health products and travel and vacation deceptions.

MKTG Services' compliance efforts centers on a systematic five-step program.

Step 1: Make certain all employees are thoroughly trained on the importance of being compliant - what to look for in regards to processes and procedures.

Step 2: List rental agreements. We insist on signed list rental agreements from everyone we do business with. We advocate annual agreements that detail the offer, usage terms, DMA compliance language and contain a signature. They provide a defensible position in a court of law.

Step 3: Ensuring that purchase orders and clearances are in order. When clearing list orders, the list professional needs to be a gatekeeper for the mailer or list owner.

Step 4: Reviewing sample mail pieces and decoys to ensure that mailers are using your lists in the agreed-upon way.

Step 5: Documentation. Save everything including purchase orders, samples, decoys, clearances and e-mails.

In screening we follow the old adage, "If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it is." It is our responsibility to be self-regulating, see that lists are used properly and establish a compliance strategy. Ultimately, being cautious and refusing offers that don't seem proper will prove to be a sound business practice.

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