New CA Privacy Legislation Won't Hurt Direct Marketers

Late last week, California Gov. Gray Davis signed three privacy bills into law that restrict forms of direct advertising. But the Direct Marketing Association isn't objecting.

"We're not opposed to any of them," says the DMA's vice president of government relations Jim Conway. "They're in line with federal law and the DMA's positions."

The first measure, AB 2944, bans unwanted ads over fax machines. Last year, the governor signed legislation that requires junk faxers to provide a toll-free opt out number, but this measure goes farther. Conway goes along with it because "faxes incur costs for consumers, and if you don't have consent or established business relationships you don't send faxes. If the consumer wants to hear from you, then you should send it. This bill codifies federal law and is consistent with our positions."

The second bill, AB 1769, prohibits unwanted and unsolicited text messages on cell phones and pagers. This form of advertising is new and the bill intends to curtail it before it becomes pervasive, "like spam email has," according to the governor. Conway says he favors the bill much like the first one because consumers incur costs with cell phones when they receive unsolicited messages. "Because of the cost incursion, we try to get members not to do it, it's in line with our guidelines," he says.

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The third bill concerns telemarketing, something the DMA supports. But the bill is actually beneficial to telemarketers because it reduces the costs small businesses pay for do-not-call lists. This bill is a follow up to last year's no-call registry, which required businesses to participate. They do so by paying a fee for a do-not-call list. Conway says 27 states now have do-not-call lists and almost all charge a fee for them. The fees pay for the preparation of the lists, which "isn't cheap because you have to update them and there's millions of names," he says. Conway says the DMA has problems with other state restrictions on telemarketing in California, but not this one.

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