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DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Ethics & Compliance

For over 60 years, the Data & Marketing Association’s ethics and self-regulatory program preserves and protects the entire marketing industry’s ability to responsibly capture, process and refine detailed data to innovate marketing practices and technologies that benefit their customers and grow our economy.

DMA has crafted and enforced strong industry self-regulation in partnership with our members because we believe that self-regulation is always the better choice over government regulation of marketing. It is a key pillar of what we do at DMA each day as mapped in this annual report.

The challenge is daunting as innovation is driving new techniques and changes, but progress is being made in two ways:

  1. We work on a daily basis with consumers to help them understand legitimate marketing and fundraising efforts and to report fraudulent activity.
  2. We ensure companies and organizations are aware of and follow industry ethics and guidelines so that consumers can trust the process and to ensure accountability is occurring.

We take consumer concerns seriously.

Download the DMA Annual Ethics Compliance Report

13,971 Consumer Complaints - 665 Digital Ad Complaints

From January 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018: DMA processed thousands of consumer inquiries ranging from assisting consumers with managing their marketing preferences to data security concerns to questionable ethical marketing practices and as such worked with countless companies to bring them into compliance with industry standards to honor and build consumer trust.

Compliance Key Findings

Highlights of Consumer Complaints and Inquiries Regarding Marketing Practices

Uptick in consumers reaching out to DMA for assistance in removing deceased family members from marketing lists.

REMINDER: PASSING THE BUCK
The practice of “passing the buck” means that the company referred consumers complaining about its service or promotional mailing to DMA instead of handling.

the complaints internally, this is not an acceptable practice. For example, a large teleservices company included DMA’s complaint hotline on its own marketing mailing and online advertisement instead of providing an internal process for complaints from consumers. DMA received dozens of complaints as a result.

When companies refer consumers to DMA, consumers often believe DMA is the list source and that DMA can remove them from a company’s files. This is not the case. DMA cannot resolve a data issue for a company regarding its own database systems. Companies should ensure their organization has a marketing preference process in place.

DMA provides multiple preference lists to assist companies in honoring and consumers in managing marketing preferences across the various marketing channels.

Even though there’s been a tremendous growth and innovation in the digital marketplace, staff still receives the most inquiries from consumers who are seeking more control over the types and volume of promotional mail and catalogs they receive.

The DMA Accountability team has also seen an uptick in consumers seeking assistance in removing deceased family members from marketing lists. This is the most sensitive name removal request – companies should ensure that they have in-place an internal suppression process and that the front-line customer service representatives are properly trained on protocol.

Staff recommends that you provide in your privacy policy a clear point of company contact for consumers who wish to reach you regarding their marketing preferences.

The main category of complaints is still educating consumers on the difference between general ads and interest-based ads and how to manage the latter.

Staff assisted hundreds of consumers by educating them on how to better manage their online ad choices to suit their needs. Staff explained the different online ad choice tools available to help them manage their online experiences:
Cookie opt-out tool – for computers/laptops
App opt-out tool – for mobile devices

Learn more about interest-based ads.

Significant jump in complaints/inquiries received through interest based advertising (IBA) complaint process based on digital platform experience. Here are some startling stats from the 2015 to the 2017-18, current reporting period:

Consumers using multiple devices from 2015 to current times grew: from 2% to 7% (Consumers’ complaints centered on receiving too many ads on multiple devices, or questions on how to better manage their online ad experience based on their multiple devices. Less is more for the consumer with multiple devices.)

Consumers using mobile devices continues to expand from 2015 to the current reporting period: jumping from 11% to 53% – showing a growing trend in usage of mobile devices – smartphones and tablets.

Drop in inquiries in consumers just using computers: 81% – 38%

Public Report of Non-Compliance

DMA staff and our Ethics Operating Committee work with companies to address and resolve consumer inquiries and to bring companies into compliance if they happen to fall out-of-compliance. The Committee does not publicize companies that are brought into compliance. It is important to note that the Committee will refer to appropriate authorities (FTC, FCC, State Attorney Generals) when appropriate – any company that is not responsive or fails to come into compliance.

Companies referred to federal/state authorities based on findings

  • Optimum (Altice)
  • Healthline.com
  • NY Print Shop
  • B2B Data Services
  • Southwest Publication & Processing

These companies were found not in compliance in 2017=2018 with DMA’s ethical guidelines. For details, download the full compliance report. For questions, please contact ethics@thedma.org.

To view past and on-going non-compliant companies, click here.

View Previous DMA Ethics Compliance Reports

Ethics Policy Committee

Ethical Business Practices Committee

DMA Board Liaisons

2017-2018 Annual Ethics and Compliance Report
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