(Editor's Note: This month DM News International is beginning a new feature about issues and events of various direct marketing associations around the world.)

DDV to Restructure

WIESBADEN, Germany – Der Deutsche Direktmarketing Verband (DDV), the German DMA, is deep in a restructuring process. Specifically the DDV will abolish the seven professional sections and replace them with forums and councils.

The councils, spokesman Holger Albers explained, are to be “homogenous communities” representing the political interests of member enterprises.

The forums, which will be open to all DDV members, are to pick up all relevant and timely subjects and discuss them in terms of know-how transfer and exchange of information among all sectors of the DM industry.

One of the first councils to be formed is that for list brokers that set up at a special meeting earlier this month. Section C, the predecessor grouping encompassing list brokers and users, will be dissolved at another special meeting next month.

Education Tops Singapore Agenda

SINGAPORE – The DMA of Singapore hopes to launch a “structured educational program” in April designed to enhance the industry's competency level and to get more professional direct marketers into the business.

B.S. Retnam, the head of the Singapore association, said lack of trained professionals is hampering the growth of the industry in the island nation. The education program was formulated with help from the Australian and New Zealand DMA.

Also on the DMA's agenda are preparations for the 3rd pan-Asian direct marketing conference July 13-15 at the Raffles City convention center.

“We have finalized speakers and confirmed exhibitors and sponsors for the event. We are projecting close to 50 companies as exhibitors, 2,000 trade visitors and 300 conference delegates.”

Retnam said he expects a US trade mission at the show and noted that he had been in touch with both USPS and the Department of Commerce about its formation.

“Despite the economic downturn in the region our show is receiving encouraging response from international markets,” he said.

Moreover, the “currency situation' has made this “a good time for western firms to evaluate the acquisition of companies in the region to expand their international network into Asia.” Services, too, are much cheaper.

Belgian DM Survives Pedophilia Scandal

BRUSSELS – The pedophilia scandal that shook Belgium last year has had little effect on direct marketing and has not triggered any efforts to pass new and more restrictive legislation.

“The only impact it had is on some mail order firms that sell normal product in Belgium but also sex videos – sometimes with children — in countries where such sales are legal, Patrick Marck of ABDM, the Belgian DMA, said.

Such videos are also sold over the Internet, Marck said even though such sales are illegal in Belgium. As a result the Belgian government is thinking about regulating the Internet.

The ABDM views such restrictive measures with alarm and is following their development closely. “You can't really control the Internet but the question was raised at a recent seminar and it remains unsolved.”

Single country legislation, he said, is not enough and at that Belgium's law on commercial communications is tougher than the EU's directive.

Another ABDM concern: stricter enforcement of laws governing wire-tapping. It is against the law to listen to other people's conversation, something telemarketers do routinely to monitor the quality of their operation.

“While it may be illegal,” Marck commented, “every company does it and we need to make sure that it becomes legal. We want to change the law so that telemarketers are exempt.”

Dutch DMA Fears Tobacco Ban

AMSTERDAM – Dutch direct marketers are concerned about a proposed ban on tobacco ads because they see it as a curb on freedom of commercial speech.

“You can grow tobacco, produce it and sell it,” Frits van Dorst, the head of the Dutch DMA (DMSA), said. “but when it comes to advertising the product people are beginning to say no.

“You can still advertise tobacco but the ban is coming and we have a big problem with what it will do to our rights of freedom of commercial speech. We would like to stop the ban.

“We are trying to influence the coming legislation through the normal lobbying circuit but it's tough. People blame advertising for tobacco's ills but if you're really honest about it the government should ban all tobacco but they won't do that because of income from cigarette taxes.”

Another problem facing DMSA is rising public anger over telemarketing in a country that still allows cold calling, something most continental countries do not.

“We don't want laws against cold calling so we are trying to handle this matter through self-regulation,” van Dorst said. DMSA has a telephone preference service (TPS) in place.

“The number of applicants has doubled in the last year from 40,000 to 90,000 people who have told us they don't want to receive calls at home.

“So we're trying to boost advertiser awareness of what they are doing, urging them to cut back on the more intrusive forms of telemarketing. As an association we have telemarketing guidelines and our members are using them.”

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