DMA exec delivers 2003 outlook

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(First in a series of Executive Outlooks) Last year ended with a flurry of legislative activity affecting direct marketers, including the appointment of a presidential commission on postal reform and the Federal Trade Commission's authorization of a national "do not call" list that will restrict the activity of telemarketers.

Jerry Cerasale, senior VP-government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, discusses these and other key issues to monitor in 2003.

BtoB: It was a busy end to the year in Washington, between the presidential commission on postal reform and the Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call ruling. How will these actions affect b-to-b marketers?

Cerasale: The do-not-call list applies to business-to-consumer. What is happening at the FTC is not going to affect b-to-b marketers.

The FCC [Federal Communications Commission] is also looking at a national do-not-call list possibility. It doesn't affect b-to-b.

We don't know whether the presidential commission will affect b-to-b marketers positively or negatively, but it certainly is going to affect them. The committee members have until July 31 to get their report out to the President and Congress.

Our hope is the reforms will allow the postal service to conduct business more efficiently and reduce costs, and that will dramatically help all mailers, including b-to-b. We think they will come up with those kinds of recommendations that ensure the financial viability of the postal service in the future.

There may be a recommendation to privatize the post office. One of the unions, the American Postal Workers union, guessed at that. But no one has any idea.

BtoB: What is the best thing DMA members can do in 2003 to support legislation benefiting marketers?

Cerasale: The best thing to do in 2003 involves the Civil Service Retirement System. The postal service has been overpaying postal service retirees, and [the administration] put together a law change that would save $3 billion in 2003 and $2.5 billion in 2004.

If that change is made, there would be no rate increase until calendar year 2006. We would have three-and-a-half or four years of constant rates, which would be wonderful for all direct marketers.

We'll put out a call when the legislation is there, asking membership to contact their senators and representatives to tell them to back this bill. From our perspective on legislation right now, that is the biggest thing for b-to-b mailers in 2003.

The privacy concerns that come up in the next Congress will likely affect b-to-c, not b-to-b.

BtoB: What are your predictions for 2003 regarding the various pieces of legislation pending?

Cerasale: Our minimum hope is that the presidential commission still backs the postal service in their transformation plan to try to cut costs. We hope they look at contracting out segments of operations. I think they may well do that. In the end, things will be better rather than worse for all mailers, including b-to-b.

Interview conducted by Carol Krol.

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