DMA Releases New Telemarketing, Viral Rules

The Direct Marketing Association announced revisions yesterday to its telemarketing ethics guidelines that it said surpassed regulations in some cases, and also released new rules for online-referral, or “viral,” marketing.

Under the new guidelines, viral marketing is defined as encouraging a consumer either to send a marketing piece to another or to provide a marketer with information about another consumer for marketing purposes. The guidelines restrict the latter form of viral marketing only.

Patricia Faley, DMA vice president of ethics and consumer affairs, in a statement called viral marketing “a promising feature of Internet marketing when employed in a manner that respects consumers' wishes.”

The guidelines call on viral marketers to inform consumers to whom they have been referred that another consumer gave their contact information, as well as to disclose the referring consumer's identity or make it available at no cost, and to provide consumers the chance to opt out. Marketers also must inform consumers who refer others of the intended use of the information and that their own personal information would be disclosed to those they refer.

In its new telemarketing guidelines, the DMA called for telemarketers to obey immediately new federal caller-ID rules, which require them to display their caller-ID information when they call, even though the rules don't take effect until Jan. 29.

It also calls on fax marketers immediately to implement the new federal definition of existing business relationship, which is a consumer who has made a purchase in the past 18 months or an inquiry in the past three months, rather than wait until Jan. 1, 2005, when new federal fax rules take effect.

In addition, the DMA guidelines require telemarketers to use a wireless suppression service to prevent calls to cell phones. The DMA operates its own service known as the Wireless Block Identifier.

Another new guideline bans prerecorded-message marketers from automatically terminating calls. Some marketers using prerecorded messages hang up when a live person answers because they want to leave a voice-mail message.

All DMA members are required to observe the association's ethics guidelines, available at

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