Regulations Affecting Direct Marketers - Financial Services Marketing

Telemarketing may be an endangered species. A federal do-not-call registry drew an overwhelming response as soon as it was announced in June 2003—with threatened fines of up to $11,000 per unwanted call. There are, of course, exceptions to the do-not-call rules, but direct marketing methods of all kinds are subject to numerous regulations and laws. Even before do-not call registries, telemarketers were bound by Federal Trade Commission rules governing the hours when they could call, how quickly a live representative had to get on the line, identification of the caller, the length of time records must be kept, and more.

New telemarketing rules are just the beginning of the regulatory maze for direct marketers. Federal and state regulations on privacy are of particular concern to financial marketers. Federal regulations have allowed diversified financial companies to use “opt out” provisions for sharing personal customer data among different divisions. For example, Citigroup’s Smith Barney investment division and Citibank could share data as long as the customer did not specifically request that his or her information not be shared. But California became the first state, in 2003, to require that financial marketers specifically get permission (opt in) from customers to share information within the corporation. Although the California law was subsequently superseded by federal law, the issue of “opt in” and “opt out” remains a contentious one. State and federal regulations also apply to fax marketers and those who market to children. With revulsion against spam growing, federal regulations have already been enacted, and more rules affecting e-mail marketers are sure to come. Direct mailers have fewer legal constraints, but ethical direct mailers adhere to the Direct Marketing Association’s guidelines, which include omitting names on a mail preference service for those who do not wish to receive direct mail.

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