Self-Regulation Key to Ensuring Consumer Trust

July 31, 2013 — The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) today announced the release of its 2013 Annual Compliance Report, highlighting DMA’s ongoing self-regulatory work that ensures responsible business practice and consumer choice within the marketing community.  In addition to summarizing the investigative work of DMA’s Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) department, the report specifically names companies not in compliance with DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practices.

“DMA strongly believes that self-regulation is the best and most successful tool in addressing consumer issues, while avoiding overly restrictive federal legislation,” said Senny Boone, DMA’s General Counsel. “DMA’s mission is to advance and protect responsible data driven marketing — and consumer trust is integral to that aim. That is why we are dedicated to addressing consumers’ concerns and even unveiling bad actors when necessary.”

The Report details consumer affairs and casework covering the period from February 2012 through June 2013. The CSR Committee reviewed 55 cases during this time period, and in twelve of these cases, companies failed to be compliant and to correct their behavior. Companies not in compliance are listed at

DMA processed over 16,808 inquiries, involving questions of compliance and marketing practices. This included 350 complaints involving 60 member companies. The most common complaints were mail removal, email or spam — as well as a practice dubbed “Pass-the-Buck.” (“Pass-the-Buck” occurs when a consumer directly contacts a company asking to be removed from that company’s internal list — and that company instead refers the consumer to DMA).

DMA also received over 300 complaints about online behavioral advertising (OBA) from March 2012 to June 2013. They were most commonly about dating/“indecent” advertisements, general, non-targeted ads, and ads that blocked content.

During the compliance period, DMA also continued its compliance role for the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) to address online marketing accountability in the marketing industry and to provide businesses and consumers with assistance in the digital arena.  Consumers can file a complaint with the DMA if they believe that a practice or ad may have violated the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising:

Summary of Process

The Committee reviews the organizations and their marketing practices using DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practices.  Members that do not comply with Committee requests face DMA censure, suspension, or expulsion.  Organizations, regardless of membership status that do not cooperate and that may also reflect potentially illegal activity are referred to law enforcement.  The Committee meets approximately eight weeks apart to review potential cases and to make its recommendations on appropriate actions for DMA in the particular matter.

To read the 2013 Annual Compliance Report, see

About Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

The Direct Marketing Association ( is the world’s largest trade association dedicated to advancing and protecting responsible data-driven marketing.  Founded in 1917, DMA represents thousands of companies and nonprofit organizations that use and support data-driven marketing practices and techniques.

In 2012, marketers — commercial and nonprofit — spent $168.5 billion on direct marketing, which accounts for 52.7 percent of all ad expenditures in the United States.  Measured against total US sales, these advertising expenditures generated approximately $2.05 trillion in incremental sales.  In 2012, direct marketing accounted for 8.7 percent of total US gross domestic product and produces1.3 million direct marketing employees in the US.  Their collective sales efforts directly support 7.9 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 9.2 million US jobs.

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