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Opt-In is Absolutely Unworkable

(DM News, July 15, 1996)

By Jonah Gitlitz

Given his quest for media attention in his recent lawsuit against U.S. News & World Report, I was not surprised that Ram Avrahami sent you (and likely others in the media) a copy of a letter that he hand-delivered to me with no indication you were being copied.

Nonetheless, to the substance of his letter, the issue of positive consent is an absolutely unworkable and unnecessary idea.

It does not work for consumers, who are denied the benefits of receiving offers for products and services they cannot anticipate in the global marketplace. Consumers vote with their pocketbooks and their documented acceptance of direct mail is impressive (with consumers spending nearly $600 billion in 1995, based on the DMA Economic Impact study conducted by the WEFA Group).

In addition, positive consent does not work for the countless companies and organizations that rely on direct mail in the competitive world to communicate to customers and prospects -- including businesses, educational and charitable institutions, nonprofit organizations, and political parties and candidates. It would place an undue burden on commerce, without any corresponding additional social or economic benefit.

America prides itself on being the open marketplace of ideas. In a commercial context, direct mail, like other advertising media, gives support and nourishment to this fundamental concept.

Those who do not accept the process should be given the opportunity to opt out. That option has been offered through DMA's MPS as well as company in-house suppression systems. Moreover, as one jurist noted, the distance between the mailbox and the trash can is a short one.

Mr. Avrahami's ideas for positive consent would decimate and undermine the process and cause harm to consumers, businesses and the free flow of ideas and information.

In light of his recent unsuccessful lawsuit, I cannot believe Mr. Avrahami does not understand this.

Jonah Gitlitz
Direct Marketing Association
New York