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Infoseek, DMA at Odds Over Ethics Probe

Infoseek Corp., Santa Clara, CA, said last week that an internal investigation by its legal department revealed no record of being contacted by the Direct Marketing Association's ethics panel concerning possible inappropriate advertising to children. However, the DMA provided a receipt of a certified letter it sent to the company.

Internet search engine Infoseek was one of two companies the DMA cited as not responding to its attempts to communicate with it regarding possible violations of ethical business practices.

“We tried to track down all sources of where we would have learned about this on a usual basis,” said Carol Smith, associate general counsel for Infoseek. “We log everything and we respond to everything — and we haven't been able to confirm either an original [consumer] complaint or communication from the DMA.”

A document the DMA faxed to DM News indicates that on July 6 someone at Infoseek signed for a registered letter from the DMA that was addressed to Infoseek president Harry Motro.

The DMA said its ethics committee tried to communicate with Motro and Infoseek through three letters, one fax and two telephone calls regarding alleged inappropriate placement of an ad for the Match.com Internet dating service on a section of Infoseek called The Kids and Family Channel in November 1997.

Infoseek said it will contact the DMA to discuss the issue.

“What we are doing now is crafting a response to them to find out what we can do to take care of any issues that may be outstanding,” said Amanda Higgins, a spokeswoman at Infoseek.

“That's really what we wanted in the first place,” said Marsha Goldberger, director of ethics and consumer affairs at the DMA. “The whole purpose here is to talk to them about the concerns and get their response. If they're ready to talk about it now, that's fine.”

Goldberger said the DMA did not try to contact Infoseek in the past week, nor did she know of any attempt by Infoseek to contact her.

Neither of the companies named in the DMA's ethics report last month were members, which would prompt some to question whether or not the DMA would name a member company without getting some kind of response. The other company cited by the DMA report, AMA Reports/Triple Eight International, Portage, MI, is presumably out of business.

“If they were a member, perhaps Bob [DMA president/ CEO H. Robert Wientzen] would have picked up the phone and called them,” Goldberger said. “I think that's only normal with any kind of association, but I do want it to be clear that we try with any company [to get a response].”

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