Marketers Get New Spam Rules

The Direct Marketing Association's new rules on unsolicited e-mail and Web site privacy look to do little to satisfy consumer privacy advocates.

The Direct Marketing Association on Monday issued new guidelines to its members on the sending of unsolicited e-mails and posting of Web site privacy policies.

As in past instances when the direct marketing industry tried to regulate itself with similar guidelines, the new rules, which address e-mail solicitations and consumer privacy, fall far short of what privacy advocates seek.

The associations Commercial Solicitations Online Guidelines, which regulate mass electronic mailings typically referred to as spam, are similar to past DMA guidelines in that they dont require marketers to ask customers or prospective customers for their consent before sending them marketing e-mail messages. The guidelines only require an opt-out, meaning that customers will receive messages unless they specifically request that they not receive them.

The privacy policy guidelines, known as the Online Information Guidelines, require DMA members to post notice of information gathering practices, allow customers to opt-out of such practices, provide access to the information, secure all information and demonstrate that theyre following their own policy.

Privacy advocates have assailed such guidelines in the past as not going far enough to protect consumer privacy. The new guidelines have done little to sway them.

"Spam with an opt-out is still spam," said Junkbusters Corp. president Jason Catlett, in Green Brook, N.J. "The DMA is condoning practices that are unacceptable to the vast majority of online users, are prohibited by almost all [Internet service providers], and are illegal in many jurisdictions. Its compliance program is as silly as the Guild of Burglars saying it will expel house thieves who steal from the same home twice."

The guidelines do carry the threat of expulsion if members do not follow them. The DMAs committee on Ethical Business Practice will enforce them.

The Association for Interactive Marketing ( known as AIM), a subsidiary of The DMA, and its Council on Responsible E-mail helped create and endorsed the online commercial solicitation guidelines.

"Marketers have discovered that e-mail is one of the greatest direct marketing mediums ever created, and these guidelines will ensure the continued success for DMA and AIM members," said Ben Isaacson, executive director of AIM in a statement.