The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) proudly boasts that it is Europe’s largest trade association in the marketing and communications sector. Whilst it has no statutory authority it enforces the DMA Code on its members. For email marketing its arguments are persuasive and the ability to say you comply with their Code is a distinct advantage. The latest Code, the fourth, came into force on 1 September 2010.
It should not be confused – and confused is a good word to use – with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code which deals with many similar matters for those engaged in non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and, importantly, direct marketing, which produced its own update, their twelfth, of their Code on, coincidently and confusingly, 1 September as well.
The intent seems to have been to resolve some of the confusion in email marketing over children and this has been partially successful. It is a regret that for those whose email lists include people under the age of 18 it has not been a completely success. Most significantly it differs from the CAP Code to a certain, and perhaps inexcusable, degree.
But first the good news. For those in email marketing used to the previous DMA Code, current for some seven years, the removal of the term minors must come as a bit of relief. Now we have just children and young persons. But do not get too excited.
Children is defined as those aged 18 years and under early on and then later as those under 18 years of age. This is probably an error but don’t depend on it. Young persons are no more restricted. They are of 16 and 17 years but can be otherwise specified.
One piece of clarification is unambiguous. The difference between the collection of data offline and online has been done away with. There is one clear rule: no personal data can be collected from children under twelve without the “secure, verifiable and explicit” consent of their parent or guardian.
Another provision of the DMA Code is equally clear. It states that “Members must not attempt to obtain information from children and young persons about other persons (e.g. parents) for marketing purposes.”
I have always been a little wary of examples being given in such codes. There would appear to be no restrictions on these ‘other persons’. It is just about as universal a definition as possible so the ‘parents’ is superfluous. Further, there is no mention of personal information, just ‘information’. And lastly, but importantly, there is no ‘knowingly’ qualifier used. Take care out there.
If your email lists contain a number of children under the age of 18, or you market products aimed at that age group, then you need to assess the DMA Code with care. Appendix 2 of the Code is of help here. It is a fairly clear guide to the provisions that relate to marketing to children.
The DMA Code rewards careful reading. It is only available online, no problem for those engaged in email marketing of course. Go to: www.dma.org.uk.