ERSP Summit Sheds Light on Self-Regulation in Today’s Direct Response Environment

by Vi Paynich on May 13, 2015 1:15:00 AM Advocacy

ERSP_Summit_2-817649-editedOn May 12, direct response marketing professionals gathered at SunTrust Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the 2015 ERSP Summit. The theme of this year’s event was Self-Regulation in the Evolving DR Industry.

“We’re all here today because self-regulation works,” says Lee Peeler, president and CEO of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC), as he welcomed attendees to the second annual Summit. “The ERSP program, the Telemarketing Review program, the ERSP Challenge process; they all demonstrate that—when correctly applied—self-regulation can make a huge difference. And you do that by promoting compliance, by protecting consumers, and, importantly, by keeping a level-playing field for those companies that understand the trust of consumers is essential to longtime success in the marketplace.”


Peeler then segued to the first session of the afternoon entitled “Taking the Lead: FTC Regulation of Wealth Creation Advertising and a Proactive Response,” led by ERSP Director and moderator Peter Marinello and panelists Lois Greisman, associate director, Division of Marketing Practices, Federal Trade Commission; Steve Thorne, CEO, National Marketing Resources (NMR); and Ryan Poelman, CEO, BuyPD. During this very informative panel discussion, FTC and industry professionals addressed recent regulatory and self-regulatory developments in wealth creation marketing.

Greisman discussed the FTC’s concerns regarding work-at-home promotions, business opportunities, and wealth creation programs. “If you are in the business of selling a business opportunity or offering a program to help people earn money and you track how well your customers are doing; if you make earnings claims using testimonials that are not typical, you need to clearly state what people generally expect to earn,” Greisman explains. But to do that, she adds, marketers need to have a record and they need to know what prior purchasers actually experienced, as well as what they purchased at the end of a program.

Next, Thorne and Poelman talked about their participation in the ERSP Review Program and what led to their decision to self-regulate.

 

ERSP_Summit_1-847833-editedOne of the highlights of the day was when Ed Glynn, partner at Locke Lord LLP, sat down with FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen to discuss recent trends at the Federal Trade Commission. During the conversation, Glynn asked Commissioner Ohlhausen to comment on what some in the industry have observed as the FTC’s growing attention towards redress cases concerning unsubstantiated advertising as opposed to hardcore fraud. What’s more, where does the Commission draw the line?
“I have concerns myself about where’s the appropriate place to draw the line,” admits the Commissioner. “I know that for things particularly involving health claims or dietary supplement claims where the science is kind of unsettled, we don’t want consumers to be misled—but we have to be sure that we’re not trying to…make it too hard to make claims where the science isn’t totally certain.”

For instance, she says advertising around fiber in cereals allowed consumers to get more information and change their diets even though the science had not totally been confirmed at that point.

The Commissioner adds that we do need to pay close attention to the fact that where we draw that line can have an impact on the types of information that consumers get.

The last session, “Opting in to Self-Regulation: Negative Options, Disclosures & ROSCA,” welcomed moderator Leonard L. ERSP_Summit_3-783196-editedGordon of Venable along with panelists John Andrew Singer, attorney, Division of Enforcement, Federal Trade Commission; Jennifer De Marco, general counsel, Allstar Products Group; Linda A. Goldstein, partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. The group focused their attention on recent regulatory action concerning negative option and billing practices, as well as the role of self-regulation and the impact of ROSCA on the direct response industry.

ERSP capped off the day with the much-anticipated cocktail reception, where attendees had a chance to talk one-on-one with some of the speakers, network with fellow attendees, and relax with a cool drink in hand.

Peeler summed up the event perfectly during his opening remarks when he said the ERSP Summit “is the perfect prelude to the ERA Government [Affairs] Fly-In.

Vi Paynich's blog
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