Famous Last Words- How Truthful Is Your Offer? (790 words)
By Denny Hatch
"Direct mail should be scrupulously honest."
The Illinois Commerce Commission on Tuesday ordered Ameritech to stop plying its customers with "misleading" offers of a discount-calling plan that often costs more than regular phone service.
Ameritech has endured withering criticism from consumer advocates and others in recent years for alleged excesses in marketing—for example, trying to sell expensive phone packages and second phone lines to nursing-home residents. Tuesday's sternly worded ICC decision, consumer advocates said, is a sign that regulators will not tolerate deceptive marketing practices by phone companies.
—Robert Manor, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer,
Jan. 24, 2001
Twice in the past year I've received sales letters from the head of customer service at my local branch of First Union Bank. The letter begins:
Dear Mr. Hatch,
I have been unable to reach you by phone ...
I work out of my home. I have three phone lines in the house—voice, fax and the Internet. That's one phone for voice with a voice-mail answering service. The person has never tried to contact me by phone. So the letter begins with a lie.
I frequently receive junk faxes with a handwritten note at the top: "Here is the information you requested" (junk e-mails say the same thing in the subject line), when in fact I've never heard of these companies, let alone requested information.
Magazine publishers send me renewals saying my subscription is about to expire, when my subscription still has eight more months to run. Some circulation managers have brought in so much cash from advance renewals that their magazines are saddled with subscription liabilities 10 years out.
Because America has 110 million households, many direct marketers feel it's OK to lie to and anger millions of consumers because millions more are out there to be hit on.