DMA backs 'opt in' policy says chief exec

The head of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) says the DMA's code of practice is not intended to promote an 'opt out' spam policy.

The head of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) says the DMA's code of practice is not intended to promote an "opt out" spam policy.

Chief executive Keith Norris says such a reading of the code is a "misinterpretation" of the relevant clauses.

Last week Computerworld Online reported Norris defending the DMA's code of practice (Tough talk on spam), which reads, in part: "Opting out: In addition to the requirements of the 12 principles of the Privacy Act, consumers must be given the opportunity to ’opt out’ of receiving marketing information which they have not requested. Marketers must have a system in place that enables them to honour such requests."

Norris claims that is not an "opt out" policy but is, rather, an "opt in" one.

"I beg to differ and we'll certainly be revisiting that whole code because, if that's your interpretation, others may come to the same conclusion. We don't have an opt out policy."

"Opt out" is commonly understood as meaning an email recipient must reply to a message requesting they not receive any more from that source. Most anti-spam websites warn users not to do so as it only confirms the address is active, making it attractive for future spam.

An "opt in" policy means a user must actively request the email. The preferred method promoted by most anti-spam vendors is a double opt in system, where users not only fill in their email address manually, but also have to respond to an automated email message to confirm their decision.

A subsequent clause of the DMA's code further spells out its policy: "Internet and email opt-out: Consumers must be given the opportunity in every location, site or page from which data that identifies them is being collected to choose not to have such information made available to others for marketing purposes."

Norris says those clauses do not relate to email but are aimed at other forms of communication, such as websites or junk mail.

"There is no way I would defend an 'opt out' policy for email. We do for other modes of communication but certainly not for email. The whole basis we've been promoting for the past three years is permission-based marketing."

The code contains another clause relating specifically to spam which also requires an "opt out" approach: "Every email offer must clearly identify the marketer and provide the person receiving it with a simple and easy-to-use method of replying and opting out."

Norris says the Consumers Institute and Ministry of Consumer Affairs assisted the DMA in drafting the code and both will be involved in reviewing it.

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