New DMA Guidelines for List Owners

Attention, list owners. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is watching. To help you steer clear of trouble, last week the Direct Marketing Association released guidelines regarding the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and related issues.

In August, three list management companies settled charges that they had aided telemarketers in the marketing of advance-fee credit products, which are illegal under the TSR. The FTC said the list managers should have known that the telemarketing scripts submitted by the telemarketers violated the rule.

According to the DMA, which met with members of the FTC last month, the agency does not expect those in the list industry to guarantee every ad. But if those renting lists “know or should have known” that a violation is taking place and participate anyway, they could be held liable.

The FTC will go after list companies and professionals who

* knowingly collaborate in an illegal offer. This occurs when those who rent lists allow a list to be used with the knowledge that the offer was illegal or simply turn a blind eye.

* are involved with scripts or promotions that include representations or violations that a list company can easily recognize. An example here might be an ad guaranteeing that one will lose 30 pounds overnight or become a millionaire stuffing envelopes at home.

* don’t act on information they become aware of about a particular offer or marketer. For example, if a business associate or a consumer brings to your attention that the ad is fraudulent, and you do nothing, you can be held liable.

To protect yourself, you and all other partners involved in the use of the marketing list should agree on the use prior to rental. Ask for and obtain a copy of the script, e-mail, or print promotion, and keep it on file. Monitor or decoy list usage to make sure that your approved use of the list is the actual use. And don’t neglect to review the promotion. If you rent lists to telemarketers, you should have an understanding of the TSR. If you rent e-mail lists you need to understand the Can-Spam Act. If “on its face” it looks like a perfectly reasonable offer, and there is nothing else that clues you into a problem, the FTC is not likely to hold you responsible, says the DMA guidelines.

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