Ethics Alerts Series

Role of Self-Regulation in the Direct Mail Space

By Lisa Shosteck

Self-regulation and ethical marketing are at the core of building consumer trust and loyalty. This ethics update focuses on key consumer marketing issues to highlight the ethical standards of applicability and to assure best practices are communicated and followed.

As we prepare to release our latest compliance report, I'm struck by how certain trends remain the same. Regardless of how innovative the technology is and how it has advanced with digital advertising, the top concern continues to be from consumers seeking to better manage the types and quantity of promotional offers they receive in the mail.

Building consumer and brand trust is vital! Key tips for companies:

  • Make sure your privacy policy contains a clear point of contact for consumers to express their marketing preferences.
  • Review your privacy policy periodically to update your terms and keep up-to-date with state, federal and global regulations and laws which may have specific notice requirements.
  • Provide clear, honest terms and conditions for your advertising practices, and
  • Provide choice in what types and quantity of marketing messages consumers receive and honor those choices.
  • Subscribe to ANA's DMAchoice mail suppression list: ANA offers special member pricing for companies to access an opt-in suppression file of consumers who have asked not to receive prospect promotional mail. Subscribing to this file, is smart business. You will build consumer and brand trust by honoring consumers' marketing preferences not to receive such mail, and you will improve your bottom line by saving thousands of dollars in the process.


ANA offers a consumer name and address removal service: DMAchoice

For consumers who wish to reduce the overall volume of prospect promotional mail offers they receive from common mailing lists, they may register, along with a nominal processing fee with our mail suppression service — The registration period is effective for 10 years.

  • Online registration: $2 fee for online processing
  • Mail-in registration: $3 fee, consumers submit a check or money order payable to ANA (no cash), certified or registered mail:

    Consumer Preferences
    P.O. Box 900
    Cos Cob, CT 06807

This service will not eliminate all promotional mail. It does not apply to promotional mail from companies or organizations that consumers have an existing business relationship. It also does not apply to local retailers, restaurants, and political organizations. We do expect that this suppression service will reduce the overall volume of prospect promotional offers consumers receive by about 80%. (Please note ANA is not the source of consumer names for marketing purposes. We offer this mail suppression service to assist consumers in managing their marketing preferences and to businesses to help as a list hygiene service and to build consumer trust.) Companies should implement their own internal process for handling name and address removals. DMAchoice should be used to supplement that process.

Additional List Suppression Services

Marketing ethics complaints

The ANA is interested in hearing from consumers. If a consumer believes a direct marketing promotion or practice is questionable and may warrant a formal review by the ANA Ethics Review Committee which receives and investigates consumer complaints, consumers may file a complaint.

You may view our current and past reports for listings of companies that the Committee has found to be out-of-compliance: and Our first step in the process is to reach out to companies with the consumers' concerns and request an investigation and response. The Committee's main role is to bring awareness and education regarding industry standard practices. It is our experience that the majority of companies resolve the matter fairly quickly. The Committee will only publicize its findings if the company has either responded that it will not come into compliance with industry standards, or does not respond at all to repeated attempts to resolve the issue.

Self-regulation is key. The ANA has processed 4,731 inquiries from consumers regarding direct marketing inquiries during our latest reporting period of January to June 2021. The majority of consumer inquiries ANA receives involve the direct mail channel:

  • Name/address removal from general mailing lists
  • Company-specific promotional mail removals
  • Pre-screened offers
  • Misdirected mail
  • Deceptive offers
  • Sweepstake mailings
  • Resident mail

Stay current and get more involved. The ANA offers a robust toolkit of principles, guidance, and checklists on industry standards to guide businesses in engaging in direct marketing.

if you are interested in knowledge-sharing and connecting with other ANA members about this issue and marketing and ethics, there are different opportunities to get involved:

  • ANA Ethics Review Committee: This committee reviews and recommends actions on marketing and ethics complaints and educates companies and consumers.
  • ANA Ethics Policy Committee: This committee reviews pending activities at the federal and state levels; learns about best practices and key topics and provides input into guidance on related ethical standards and compliance issues.

If you have questions or want to get more involved in marketing and ethics, please contact We look forward to working with you in our shared efforts to ensure good business practices, consumer protection in the marketplace, and consumer trust by providing accountability.


"Role of Self-Regulation in the Direct Mail Space." ANA, 2021.