*DRTV Self-Regulation Panel Gets Green Light

MIAMI – The Electronic Retailers Association took an important step toward self-regulating the DRTV and e-commerce marketers during a panel discussion at the ERA Spring Conference here March 8.

The panel consisted of three ERA executives and two legal experts. One was a member of the National Advertising Division for the Better Business Bureaus, and the other was a representative of the FTC and a former executive of the Direct Marketing Association.

“This will build consumer confidence in our industry,” said Johna Gitlitz, former CEO of the DMA. “This would also help increase station clearances and confidence among the stations.”

The guidelines set up a procedure for members of ERA to file complaints and an appeals process for those accused of unscrupulous advertising and marketing practices. The self-regulatory process also includes a method of filing complaints by member companies against fellow members.

“Regulatory boards are not there to punish anyone they want,” said Nicholas Vianna of the NAD. “We are not really watchdog, we aren't just part of the process.”

All the members of the panel agreed that ERA was in need of this for two reasons. First, the government does not have the resources to regulate or to hear every complaint against a marketer. Also the self-regulatory program, if effective, will bring about fewer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

“We really can't expect the FTC to regulate the industry for us because they don't have a enough teeth,” said Jeffery Knowles, general counsel to ERA. “When you look at the substance of the issue the regulatory guidelines will be enforced through peer pressure.”

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