The Direct Marketing Association has charged five companies with violating its Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, the association announced as part of its latest ethics report released yesterday.
Two of the companies are sweepstakes marketers, and three are online marketers. None are DMA members.
The sweepstakes companies are World Winners Organization, with addresses in Santa Barbara, CA, and Minot, ND, and Pacific Contest Advisory Group Network, St. Paul, MN. The DMA referred its complaint against the companies to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service because of potential violations of the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, a federal law that applies to sweepstakes sent through the U.S. mail. Neither company responded to the DMA's concerns regarding the potential confusion about the intent of their mailings.
The online marketers are Image Marketing Group, Coral Springs, FL; CD Marketing; and Server Warehouse, Jacksonville, NC.
Image Marketing Group and CD Marketing did not respond to DMA correspondence. Both were questioned about e-mails that offered the sale of bulk e-mail lists. Specifically, they were asked what screening procedures are used to ascertain how the lists are used. In addition, CD Marketing was cited for violating the guideline that requires that every offer clearly identify the marketer's name and either its postal address or telephone number.
A case involving Server Warehouse was referred to the Federal Trade Commission and to the North Carolina attorney general's office because of allegations the company's Web site misrepresented its service and its contact information. The company did not respond to the DMA's correspondence.
The report also provides details of the Online Commercial Solicitations Guidelines recently approved by the DMA's board of directors. They include:
• Solicitations sent online should disclose the marketer's identity.
• The subject line should be clear, honest and not misleading.
• A marketer must also provide specific contact information at which the individual can opt out of inhouse lists or restrict transfer of information to other marketers.
• A marketer must provide information on how consumers can obtain service or information. The marketer's street address must be made available in the e-mail solicitation or by a link to the marketer's Web site. In addition, marketers are required to “scrub” e-mail lists obtained through third-party marketers using the DMA's E-Mail Preference Service suppression file.
Another set of guidelines, the Online Information Guidelines, requires that companies include:
• The listing of marketers' information practices in a prominent place on Web sites.
• Details about the type of personally identifiable information collected and its purposes, along with the ability for consumers to opt out.
• Public self-certification or third-party verification and monitoring to demonstrate adherence with stated online practices.
• Consumer redress through a physical address.
The ethics report is also available at http://www.the-dma.org/library/guidelines/ethicscase.pdf.