The music on this page is the "Russ Smith Theme Song".

November 3, 1997

Consumer Activist Files DMA Ethics
 Complaint Against AOL

The publisher of consumer­activist Web site Consumer.Net says he has filed a complaint against America Online Inc. (AOL) with DMAs Ethics Council.

According to a statement released late last month, Washington, DC­based Consumer.Net publisher Russ Smith has charged that AOL, Dulles, VA, is violating federal law and DMAs ethical standards by failing to provide consumers with a clear way to opt­out of its telemarketing efforts.

"Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, they have to have a written 'do­not­call policy' I called their 800 number, the directions they gave me are vague and I can't get on their do­not­call list", Smith said.

AOL spokesman Rich D'Amato said that AOL has heard nothing about Smith's complaint from DMA and that he was unable to comment specifically. "We believe that our telemarketing procedures, our procedures for the maintenance of a do­not­call list and our coordination with any telemarketers we retain to act as our agents meet the standards of FTC and FCC rules and are in accord with the Direct Marketing Association's ethics guidelines," D'Amato said.

A DMA official would not comment on whether it has received Smith's complaint. Smith said that he has not heard back from DMA and that the organization has ignored him in the past. "As usual, they won't answer my complaints," he said.

­ Ken Magill

C.AT.S. Comment: We tried to get a copy of AOL's "Do Not Call Policy". After several calls to customer service we got a supervisor who told us that she could "only mail AOL disks" because that is all she had access to. She then asked me how many I would like, so as a joke I told her to send 100.

Believe it or not, she sent us 100 disks, during the middle of the UPS strike no less! We at C.A.T.S. find it interesting that AOL could send us 100 program samples on disk but, to this day, cannot send us their "Do Not Call Policy".

Litigation is under consideration at this time, since it is a violation of the law to refuse to give out the policy (even if they don't call you). Like a product warranty, the policy must be "available upon demand". To learn more, read this article in DM News, written by an expert in the field.

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