Keep an Eye on Privacy Legislation, DMA Chief Says

NEW ORLEANS — Database marketers need to keep a close eye on privacy legislation that could fundamentally change the way they do business, Direct Marketing Association president H. Robert Wientzen told attendees of the NCDM Winter 2001 conference yesterday.

Wientzen, speaking to 100 showgoers gathered for the opening session of the conference, challenged database marketers to ensure that at least one person in their office is familiar with and monitors legislative issues. Hundreds of privacy proposals that potentially could affect the industry have already emerged, Wientzen said.

“Most of them, thankfully, will never go into law,” he said. “However, even if just a few of them go into law, the effect on database marketing and its users' bottom lines could be nothing short of catastrophic.”

Wientzen acknowledged that many of the people in his audience were members of the technology sector and that legislative issues affecting the direct-marketing industry weren't always at the top of their priority list. However, issues that only seem to affect technology companies peripherally could come back to haunt them, Wientzen said.

“They have a very real potential of affecting the quality of the data and how the data is used,” Wientzen said. “It means less sales and less job security.”

Two other issues that could affect database marketers and direct marketers as a whole are postal reform and the ongoing battle over distance-sales taxes, Wientzen said. State governors and big-box retailers, both of which have been lobbying to broaden state power to tax online sales as well as distance sales offline, have been rebuffed so far, but the war is far from over.

Problems at the U.S. Postal Service continue to deeply affect direct marketers and mailers, Wientzen said. While the recent anthrax scare has cost the USPS more than $1 billion, the real problems in the agency lie in the fact that it is operating under legislation created in the 1970s.

“We need comprehensive legislative reform that will enable the postal service to compete in today's market and tomorow's market,” Wientzen said.

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