CONSUMER MARKETING: MPA Guidelines on Relations with Subscription Agents
Executive Summary of MPA Guidelines on Relations
with Subscription Agents--March 2005
In 1998, Magazine Publishers of America, Inc. (MPA) issued a set of voluntary Guidelines on Relations with Subscription Agents. The Guidelines were amended in April 2004 and again in March 2005 to keep pace with new developments in the subscription acquisition industry and new documentation and reporting requirements adopted by independent auditors. The purpose of the Guidelines is to provide individual publishers with practical guidance on how best to track and monitor agent-sold subscriptions. To accomplish this objective, the Guidelines contain specific provisions that MPA strongly urges member and non-member publishers to consider incorporating into their individual contracts with agents. These provisions are summarized below:
1. Compliance with Law: In order to ensure that all subscription acquisition programs and methods (e.g. direct selling, telemarketing, electronic marketing, field selling, etc.) comply with federal and state law, the Guidelines recommend that agents contractually affirm to publishers that they will comply, on an ongoing basis, with all relevant laws, rules and regulations relating to the sale of magazines to the public.
2. Best Sales Practices: The Guidelines specify several recommended best sales practices that agents should follow, including : truthfully representing themselves and the nature of the subscription offer to the consumer; using sales scripts and materials that clearly and truthfully disclose all material terms of the offer (i.e. term, cost, payment terms, cancellation and refund policies) ; providing written order confirmations; and, accepting affirmative responsibility to prevent the use of deceptive sales practices by sub-agents, third parties and salespersons.
3. Document Retention: The March 2005 amendments recommend that publishers require agents to retain documentation sufficient to verify the order and payment of all subscriptions processed on behalf of an individual publisher. The amendments also specify the types of documents independent auditors have currently deemed sufficient to confirm order and payment.
4. Supervision of Field Sales: The March 2005 amendments also recommend that publishers place an affirmative responsibility on agents to conduct employment reference and background checks on any field salesperson involved in soliciting subscription orders on behalf of publishers.
5. Agent Tracking: The Guidelines recommend that publishers require agents to identify, code and disclose all sub-agents and third parties involved in selling an individual publishers products so that each individual publisher can know and, therefore, be in a position to authorize (or not authorize) the sale of its products by such identified individuals and entities.
6. Rectifying Consumer Complaints: The Guidelines recommend that publishers require agents to take all reasonable steps to expeditiously rectify consumer complaints relating to subscription order solicitation. The Guidelines also suggest that agents retain complaint records (organized by sub-agent and third party, if applicable) for a period of two years and that such records are available to publishers upon request.