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DMA Aims to Stop Solicitations to the Deceased

The Direct Marketing Association realizes that the last thing consumers need during a time of grief is to see marketing messages addressed to deceased loved ones, so it has created what it calls the Deceased Do-Not-Contact list.

“We get at least one consumer call a day, and the calls are of a very highly emotional nature, so we knew we had to take a step,” said Pat Kachura, senior vice president of ethics and consumer affairs at the DMA. “This is our attempt to help consumers who are having difficulty having deceased names removed from reputable marketers' lists.”

The association announced the DDNC file yesterday as a list of names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of deceased consumers that must be honored by all DMA member companies but also will be available to non-member firms.

“Currently, when consumers complain to individual marketers, the information isn't shared among marketers because there is no comprehensive, industry-wide suppression file,” Kachura said. “The Social Security Administration has a list of individuals who were receiving Social Security benefits but no longer do, but that's not the whole picture. Another thing that happened in the past was that people would add deceased names to the DMA's Mail Preference Service, but they only stay on the list for five years unless they are reregistered.”

Consumers now can register the names of deceased loved ones on the DMA's consumer Web site at http://preference.the-dma.org/cgi/ddnc.php. There is a $1 credit card verification fee to complete the registration in order to record those entering the names as well as to prevent fraudulent entries. The person registering has to enter his name, credit card number and ZIP code to complete the transaction.

Mailers who subscribe to the Mail Preference Service will automatically get the deceased names, which will be flagged as such. DMA members are required to abide by both lists, Kachura said.

The DMA plans to promote the list to funeral directors, hospitals, the American Medical Association and consumer groups to get the word out to consumers. Kachura said the list should be available to marketers Oct. 1.

It is unclear how effective such a file might be, and one key element will be whether consumers find out about it, according to one list professional.

“It is a good idea, and one of the only ways I can think of to do it at no cost to the mailers,” said Fran Golub, senior vice president/list management at Walter Karl, Pearl River, NY, a Donnelley Marketing and infoUSA company.

Golub said that though lists of deceased people are available from several companies that compile them from public records, including infoUSA, mailers don't use them widely because of the costs involved.

“The main way that most mailers find out about deceased customers is through irate calls,” she said.

Providing the DDNC to DMA members and requiring them to use it will be good for the industry, she said, adding that she hopes consumers will use it as well.

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising 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

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