Safeguarding Ethical Use of Consumer Data for Marketing Purposes
When it comes to purchases and business transactions, American consumers enjoy a level of convenience unknown anywhere else in the world. They expect to receive marketing offers that closely match their interests or needs. These conveniences are made possible by direct marketing and powered by the responsible exchange of data. The flow of consumer information is critical to the ongoing strength of the American economy in general, and the direct marketing community in particular.
Marketing Data for Marketing Uses
Without data, marketers could neither reach consumers with relevant offers at the right time and via the right communication channel, nor deliver the products they purchased. In essence, marketers need to understand the consumers’ preferences.
In order to ensure that consumers are protected as the flower of marketing data occurs, DMA believes that marketing data should be used only for marketing purposes. This is an important underlying tenet of the DMA Guidelines: marketers should be sensitive to the issue of consumer privacy and should only collect, combine, rent, sell, exchange, or use marketing data.
Ethical use of consumer data includes respecting the consumer’s desire to not participate in the direct marketing economy. DMA believes that marketers should be allowed to meet consumers’ preferences and interests through the free market and self-regulation without governmental mandates or prohibitions. DMA safeguards the ethical use of consumer data for marketing purposes so that marketers can build consumer trust and adjust to new market conditions and technologies more quickly than government regulation could allow.
Advocating Responsible Telemarketing Practices
In 1985, DMA instituted a Telephone Preference Service wherein consumers could opt-out of prospecting telephone marketing calls. With the advent of the National Do Not Call Registry run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), DMA has phased out its Telephone Preference Service. However, DMA is active in Congress to reduce the cost of that registry to marketers and to prevent expansion of the registry to include B2B calls. Today, DMA’s Guidelines outline the circumstances in which it is appropriate to conduct telemarketing to consumers, in addition to requiring that marketers use the federal Do-Not-Call Registry and state Do-Not-Call lists.
DMA is active in Congress working to reduce the cost of the federal Do Not Call registry to marketers and to prevent expansion of the registry to include B2B calls. Additionally, DMA recently supported the passage of legislation designed to prevent caller ID “spoofing,” or the masking of the identity of a telephone caller for fraudulent purposes. We worked with lawmakers to ensure that companies will be able to show the phone numbers of their customer service units on caller ID, as opposed to the number from which a call is placed, so that return calls can be handled efficiently.
DMA also works closely with the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that their enforcement of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) does not unduly burden direct marketers. For example, when the FCC recently sought to amend its sales rules to require a complete ban on the use of auto-dialers and pre-recorded messages, DMA led the industry in opposing this change, instead recommending that the FCC simply harmonize its rules with those of the FTC. The FCC’s proposal would have had far-reaching unintended consequences for telemarketers, prohibiting calls from retailers, airlines, banks, student loan companies, electric utilities, telecommunications firms, and many others. For example, utilities would no longer be able to contact customers during a power outage with pre-recorded phone messages. DMA successfully defended the use of these technologies to provide consumers with vital information and updates on everything from electrical or gas outages and patient notifications to data breach and fraud alerts.
Protecting Children’s Privacy in Marketing to Minors
DMA believes that, where marketing to children is permitted by law, marketers should ensure the marketing is suitable for the child taking into account the age range, knowledge, sophistication, and maturity of their intended audience. Offers that are suitable for adults only should not be made to children.
DMA supported the passage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998 and worked closely with the FTC during its first review of the statute in 2005. DMA’s Guidelines require that members comply with COPPA and relevant state laws in determining whether the use of a child’s data for marketing purposes is appropriate.
In 2010, the FTC announced that – in light of rapidly evolving technology and changes in the way children use and access the Internet – the Commission is seeking public comment on the costs and benefits of an FTC rule designed to protect children online. The Commission was not originally scheduled to review its COPPA Rule until 2011. DMA has organized a broad coalition to monitor and partner with the FTC in its COPPA review.