ALTHOUGH COMPLAINTS relating to direct marketing are at an all-time low, the DMA has announced a new code of practice to which member companies must adhere as of October next. The main provisions of the Code cover:

Advertising to children - must not promote unhealthy or unwise behaviour, exploit a minor's inexperience, make a direct appeal to purchase unless the product is both affordable and of interest to minors. Lists containing children under the age of 14 cannot be rented without written permission from parents.
Tobacco advertising - must comply with the DMA's rules on Tobacco Direct Marketing, the Tobacco Manufacturers Association's voluntary agreement and the British Code of Advertising Practice. All advertisers using dm techniques must obtain prior consent from the individuals targeted as well as a signed statement that the person is over 18 and a smoker.
Verbal offers - must be confirmed in writing.
Testimonials - promotional materials must not use quotation marks in a way that suggests a testimonial unless the source is specified.
Telephone Marketing - outbound callers must avoid making calls to children, call at reasonable hours (8am-9pm) and not at all on Sundays and national holidays, and identify the name of the advertiser at the start of the call.
Delivery performance - goods must be delivered within 30 days. If not fulfilled within this time frame customers must be informed and a full refund provided on request.
Availability of goods - companies must take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not create demand that cannot be met.
Charity-linked promotions - offers claiming to benefit charities or good causes must name them and state the basis on which the contribution will be calculated.
Presentations and events - offering a free gift for attendance at a presentation/special event must make it clear if the purpose of the event is to sell a particular product or service.
Network marketing - prohibits the use of schemes in which payments or other benefits are derived from the recruiting of participants rather than from sales.
Gifts and prizes - the chances of receiving a particular gift or prize must not be unfairly represented.
Right to withdraw - consumers have the right to return unwanted, undamaged goods without penalty within seven working days and expect a refund within 30 days.

The new code has received a warm welcome both by the Data Protection Registrar and the Office of Fair Trading.