Last year, four states had do-not-mail registry legislation on the books; to date, the number has increased to 15. While three have withdrawn their bills, this trend nonetheless alarms direct mailers. Add in the growing concern that the Federal Trade Commission will institute a do-not-mail list like the National Do Not Call Registry, and you’ve got downright panic. After all, nearly 47 percent of all print is delivered by the USPS, and advertising mail makes up 30 percent of its total revenue.
Fortunately, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is on the case. The DMA is actively working with state business groups and communicating with legislators about the importance of direct mail for consumers, businesses and the economy. Leading this effort is Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs for the DMA, and with whom I had the pleasure of speaking about this pressing issue.
EB: How did do-not-mail legislation originate?
JC: The first state was New York, which has had a do-not-mail bill introduced for the past eight years. Usually, when we see a state bill, it comes in two ways. One, such as with New York, it’s from a constituent of a representative or senator who says,‘I’m getting so much mail, and I’d like to get off the list.’ Two, which we’ve seen more recently, environmental concerns push the bill to some new legislators.
EB: Did the follow-up states simply copy the legislation, or did they change the provisions?
JC: Some of the bills are a combination do-not-e-mail and do-not-mail, and there’s one that has a do-not-contact list. Many of them are very similar, however; most are set up within the office of the attorney general, where people can get on a list to not receive unsolicited advertisements and mail. [Violators] can be fined up to $11,000 a hit and as low as $1,000. They closely resemble do-not-call legislation. In essence, they require marketers to purchase the lists [and] to scrub them within a specified time period. Most of them exempt nonprofit organizations and politicians, which is similar to do-not-call legislation.