DMA Guidelines Mark Major Shift

The Direct Marketing Association's newly released e-mail marketing guidelines are a major shift in the organization's e-mail marketing policy from several years ago.

The DMA originally took the same position with e-mail that it has with other media: that it is acceptable to prospect an address unless its owner has requested otherwise. But the new guidelines rule out prospecting with non-permission-based e-mail lists.

Under the guidelines, non-complying DMA members can reportedly be expelled.

As a result of the shift, the DMA has received praise from some groups with which it has found itself at odds in the past.

“This marks a departure from previous thinking,” said Ray Everett-Church, chief privacy officer for consultancy ePrivacy Group and a lawyer for the anti-spam organization Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail. “And while it doesn't address every single downside of commercial e-mail operation, it certainly sets the bar a lot closer to where some privacy advocates would like to see it,” he said.

CAUCE recently praised the DMA over comments its senior vice president of government affairs Jerry Cerasale reportedly made in an interview with another news organization.

“We view spam as sending a commercial e-mail to someone with whom a marketer has not had any prior business relationship and as being sent to someone who has not asked for the e-mail,” Cerasale said.

However, the DMA's guidelines still leave the door open to sending e-mail to customers who, though they have done business through other channels, may not necessarily have given permission for electronic contact. Anti-spam advocates have long contended that just because someone is a customer doesn't necessarily mean they want to be contacted online.

The guidelines also do not offer a strict definition of what constitutes permission, or “affirmative consent,” as it is worded in the document. Though mainstream marketers have by and large bought into permission e-mail marketing, there is still much debate between marketers and anti-spammers over what are and are not acceptable e-mail address gathering practices.

The DMA's guidelines follow verbatim:

Commercial Solicitations Online Guidelines

Marketers may send commercial solicitations online under the following circumstances:

1. The solicitations are sent to the marketers' own customers, or

2. Individuals have given their affirmative consent to the marketer to receive solicitations online, or

3. Individuals did not opt out after the marketer has given notice of the opportunity to opt out from solicitations online, or

4. The marketer has received assurance from the third party list provider that the individuals whose e-mail addresses appear on that list

a) have already provided affirmative consent to receive solicitations online, or

b) have already received notice of the opportunity to have their e-mail addresses removed and have not opted out.

In each solicitation sent online, marketers should furnish individuals with a link or notice they can use to:

· request that the marketer not send them future solicitations online, and

· request that the marketer not rent, sell, or exchange their e-mail addresses for online solicitation purposes.

The above requests should be honored in a timely manner.

Only those marketers that rent, sell, or exchange information need to provide notice of a mechanism to opt out of information transfer to third-party marketers.

Marketers should process commercial e-mail lists obtained from third parties using The DMA's e-Mail Preference Service suppression file. E-MPS need not be used on one's own customer lists, or when individuals have given affirmative consent to the marketer directly.

Solicitations sent online should disclose the marketer's identity, and the subject line should be clear, honest, and not misleading. A marketer should also provide specific contact information at which the individual can obtain service or information. The marketer's street address should be made available in the e-mail solicitation or by a link to the marketer's Web site.

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