DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Ethics Committees Overview


Our goal is to keep all direct marketing channels open, safe and productive for business and consumers, helping the DMA to advance and protect responsible data-driven marketing. The best way to do this is through vibrant, peer-led marketing ethics committees and strong self-regulatory standards.


DMA has, for decades, been a leader in establishing comprehensive self-regulatory guidelines for its members on all facets of direct marketing. In our experience, self-regulatory guidelines are the most effective way to address changes in marketing technology, changes in markets, and new marketing business practices. DMA guidelines provide members with generally accepted principles of conduct, prevent unnecessary regulation, and are flexible and adaptable.


DMA and its member companies have long recognized that promoting best practices through effective self-regulation enhances consumer trust and confidence. Addressing potential concerns about emerging practices and curbing potential abuses through self-regulation is the best approach. Our members understand that their success on the Internet, in the mail, via mobile or on social media is dependent on consumers’ confidence and trust, and members support efforts that enrich a user’s experience while fostering consumer trust across marketing channels.


DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice are used by the association’s Committee on Ethical Business Practice and its Ethics Policy Committee as the standard to which direct marketing promotions and practices are compared. We ask that all marketers support the guidelines in spirit and not treat their provisions as obstacles to be circumvented by legal ingenuity.

  • Dishonest, misleading or offensive communications discredit all means of advertising and marketing, including direct marketing. Observance of these guidelines by all concerned is expected. All persons involved in data-driven direct marketing should take reasonable steps to encourage other members of the direct marketing community to follow the guidelines as well.

DMA Ethics Committee Descriptions:

The DMA has two Board-level ethics committees, the Ethics Policy Committee and the Ethics Operating Committee. Each is comprised of experienced marketers who seek to advance marketing ethics and accountability for the data-driven marketing industry.

The marketing practitioner-led DMA Ethics Policy Committee:

  • Meets 4-6 times annually to review pending matters impacting marketing ethics.
  • Reviews pending activities at the federal and state levels to ensure members stay “ahead of the regulatory curve” by providing quick and transparent solutions for consumers having challenges with marketing offers and data uses.
  • Reviews and updates changes to the DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practices for review by the Board of Directors.
  • Provides training to members by serving on webinars, participating in sessions at DMA events and preparing toolkits and white papers on issues of concern.
  • Guides and advises DMA staff on key and trending marketing practices and their impact on marketing and ethics.

The peer-review Committee on Ethical Business Practice/Ethics Operating:

  • Meets 5-6 times per year to review pending casework brought to DMA by consumer and member complaints. Committee meetings are confidential.
  • Reviews promotions and practices that may violate our self-regulatory ethics guidelines.
  • Promotions and practices come to our attention via industry members, consumers, consumer groups, staff monitoring.
  • Works with companies (members and nonmembers) towards correcting or stopping questionable practices to solve consumer issues and build trust in the process.
  • Cooperation is voluntary and we have found that most companies work with the Committee.
  • If there is no cooperation and the company is a member, the Committee refers the Company to the DMA Board of Directors for censure, suspension, or expulsion of their membership.
  • If there is no cooperation, and the company is not a member, Committee may refer case to law enforcement (and there is publicity of noncompliant members) See Accountability.
Want information on the Ethics Operating Committee and how to file a complaint?
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