Direct marketers, senator reach accord on sweepstakes

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Direct marketers, facing a barrage of criticism of their sweepstakes mailings and multiple bills in Congress, reached an agreement to accept increased sweepstakes regulation.

The deal, expected to be formally announced tomorrow by Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) at a meeting of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, calls for more prominent and additional disclosures, and gives the U.S. Postal Service authority for the first time to easily stop mailings nationally.

Marketers using sweepstakes already must disclose that a purchase isn't needed to win, but the proposed legislation is expected to require the disclosure be in "clear and conspicuous'' language, a legal term that will force more prominence. Marketers also will have to say in a prominent position that "a purchase does not increase the chance of winning.''

The twin disclosures will be required both on sweepstakes letters and again on order forms, but the legislation doesn't include any of the language on minimum type size or location of the disclosures that had been in some bills. Marketers also may be required to list an 800-number to allow people to get their names off the list.

Direct Marketing Association officials said today that they can live with the pact.

"I don't think people are dancing on the table, but it is good for us to try to prevent confusion,'' said Jerry Cerasale, the DMA's VP-government affairs. "We can make changes and not destroy sweepstakes. There will be some pain, but it is not fatal.''

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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