|'Deceased Do Not Contact' list
|By Dana Dratch
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.
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
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,"
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,"
"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
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.