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'Deceased Do Not Contact' list

It's the sort of thing that leaves you shaking your head -- a little annoyed, a little sad and maybe even a little amused.

You've just checked your mail or answered the phone and there's someone trying to sell something to a loved one who died six months ago. It's not the first time, and you wish that somehow you could make it stop. Now, you might be able to.

The Direct Marketing Association, or DMA, is sponsoring a "Deceased Do Not Contact" list aimed at giving family members a chance to remove the names of deceased loved ones from mass-marketing efforts.

How it works: You contact the DMA -- online at https://preference.the-dma.org/cgi/ddnc.php -- and give it the name, address, phone number and e-mail address of the deceased. The association charges $1 to maintain the service and prevent fraudulent reporting.

Established in October, use of the 3,000-name list became mandatory for the association's organizations on Jan. 13, 2006. All of the association's 5,000 member organizations are also required to purge the names from their mass-marketing system.

"Members are required to delete or suppress names before that mailing goes out," says Patricia Kachura, senior vice president for ethics and consumer affairs for the Direct Marketing Association.

Noticing a need
The organization established the service as a response to consumer concerns, says Kachura. "We were getting a number of concerns from people," she says, adding that too many times relatives who died years earlier were still getting mail.

"We thought that there was a need for a place for consumers to complain so that we could be sure our members took their names off the list," says Kachura.

Up until that point, the organization had to rely solely on other records, like the Social Security Death Index, to purge names of the deceased from their files.

While the organization doesn't run any kind of background check to verify that a person is deceased, the paper trail created by the $1 credit card charge is designed to prevent anyone from adding names to the list that don't belong there, she says.

"The reason for that is that we felt that we needed some sort of record to keep track of who is putting the names on the list," says Kachura.

The marketing association already has several do-not-contact lists for mail, e-mail and phone.

The new list "sounds like a useful resource to simplify the process for families," says Sally Hurme, an attorney with the consumer protection division of AARP. It allows family members to notify companies and organizations that their relative is gone without having to do it "one person at a time," she says.

When it comes to getting a telemarketing call or letter for a deceased loved one, there is no typical response, says Bret Beall, an administrative manager for the Association for Death Education and Counseling, an international membership group of organizations dealing with death, dying and bereavement.

"Reactions run the gamut, some people will be saddened," says Beall.

"Some people might like to be reminded of that loved one. But, since there are other ways to accomplish that, this list still has great value."

Marketers also find the service helpful because it allows them access to more accurate information and reduces the chance they will inadvertently offend someone.

"We found that there really was a desire for this kind of information," says Kachura. "Our members want to know this information."

The organization has also set rules for how the information on the list can be used, she says. Member organizations and companies are required to use the list "for deletion purposes only" and not for any type of marketing effort. When the group makes the list available to nonorganization members, it makes them adhere to the same standards, says Kachura.

"When a marketer gets this list, they sign a contract that they will be using this for suppression purposes only."

To do otherwise "would be cause for a major ethical complaint," and if the organization is a member, "dismissal from the DMA," says Kachura.

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: Jan. 25, 2006
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