Adapting to foreign list hygiene

Many catalogers hope to go global, but that goal requires keeping on top of local legal restrictions, mailing regulations, and merge/purge rules. These vary by country, as can be seen when comparing list regulations in the U.K. and Germany, two key international markets for U.S. mailers.

The U.K. recently implemented a change of address scheme similar to the National Change of Address (NCOA) program in the U.S., “but the country’s privacy laws won’t let us run rented lists against it,” says Biddy Hurlbut, chairman of apparel cataloger Peruvian Connection. “The only file we can clean up in the U.K. is our own.”

In addition, only local U.K. service bureaus are licensed to have access to postal code information, which means that a merge/purge of a British list must be done on British soil. But the U.K. allows merged/purged disks to be shipped out of the country for mailing fulfillment.

In Germany, on the other hand, no laws address merge/purge, but most companies won’t allow lists to go outside the country for either merge/ purge or mailing, Hurlbut says.

In the U.K., list purity is another problem. “There are discrepancies from list to list in regard to differences between buyers and inquirers,” Hurlbut says, noting that often inquirers are listed as buyers. “We’ve spent a lot of time training our service bureau over there on the difference.”

At least the U.K. and Germany, unlike some other European countries, deliver returned mail, which aids in keeping lists clean. Germany also offers a file that flags the addresses of prisons and homeless shelters. And both Germany and the U.K. offer bad-debtor suppression files.-LD

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