Fifteen do-not-mail bills have been introduced in state legislatures over the past year, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Of those bills, four are still under review; however, few if any seem likely to be passed.
New York had a bill in its Assembly, which was withdrawn by the sponsor. However, its Senate bill was referred to the Consumer Protection Committee. Its Legislature adjourned on June 24, likely killing the bill for the year.
The Illinois Senate bill (SB2115), which would create a “Junk Mail Opt-Out List” for the state, has been referred to that state’s Senate Rules Committee. Michigan’s bill (H.4199), proposed in 2007, also creates a list and was referred to the House Committee on Commerce. This bill carried over to the 2008 session. Finally, Pennsylvania’s bill (HB2551) has been referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.
The DMA is monitoring do-not-mail legislation in all 50 states, says Linda Woolley, EVP of government affairs for the DMA. “We strongly believe do-not-mail bills are unnecessary, and are a threat whenever they pop up,” she adds.
Woolley said that, while there is currently no federal do-not-mail legislation under consideration, the DMA is proactive in meeting with lawmakers to explain the potential damage of a law, especially for small businesses such as local painters, coffee shops, printers and landscapers.
“If [small businesses can’t] mail advertisements to consumers, their business could be devastated,” she says.
Environmental group ForestEthics, which recently issued a report claiming that direct mail contributes to global warming, is petitioning online for a national do-not-mail registry.
Will Craven, ForestEthics’ spokesman for the do-not-mail initiative, says that the group “is not anti-mail” but believes only people who wish to receive direct mail should receive it. A registry would benefit marketers as well as the environment, he explains, because mail would not be sent to consumers that do not want it.
“You could save money and allocate resources to something else,” he says.
However, Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association, believes that the group is overlooking some environmental benefits of direct mail. When people make purchases from home, he explains, they save resources by not driving to a store.
Woolley adds that the DMA has established the “Green 15,” a set of 15 business practices that are designed to help the environment without impacting businesses’ bottom lines.
Do-not-mail legislation, Davison added, is “a great example of well-intentioned, but uninformed, legislation.” Ado-not-mail registry, he notes, would hurt those who rely on mail order products, such as the elderly or those living in rural areas.
“It would remove choice and selection from many people,” he said.
“It has potential to disrupt or diminish not only the catalog industry but 8% to 9% of the total economy with it,” he continues. “We don’t sent catalogs to people who don’t want them.”