Dutiful watchdog and lobbyist

The DPA, which celebrated its 25th anniversary on November 22, is responsible for promoting the use of directories, for lobbying on behalf of directory publishers with the UK government and in Europe, and for policing the industry.

The DPA says that figures for 1993 suggest its full members account for 16 per cent of the total number of directories then published in the UK.

To be a full member of the DPA, a company must be involved in directory publishing (including database publishing). It defines directories as “reference works arranged in a systematic manner, consisting of various kinds of factual information, possibly but not necessarily including names and addresses of individuals, companies or institutions. They may be published or communicated either in printed form, or in electronic form, or both. As well as being sources of information, directories can be advertising media in whole or in part.”

The DPA sees one of the main threats to directory publishers – and apparently one of the primary reasons for its formation – as coming from the activities of bogus publishers. Every couple of years, it seems, there is another warning to the British business community to be on the look out for invoices for entries in “international fax directories” which were never booked and which are unlikely ever to appear.

In many cases, such invoices are faxed directly through to companies’ accounts departments. While it seems impossible to believe that even junior accounts clerks would process them without question, it does happen, otherwise why would the fraudsters continue to try it on?

DPA chairman Trevor Fenwick sees such bogus publishers as a major threat to the industry. “It’s illegal in Britain now, so it largely emanates from overseas. It gives the industry a bad image.”

The DPA monitors the situation closely and liaises with the Department of Trade and Industry and with local trading standards officers to help stamp out any bogus directory companies that appear.

The DPA strongly advises advertisers and directory users to always make sure that the directory company they are dealing with is a reputable one. Fenwick says: “One of our key roles is to check the bonafides of publishers.”

It is also active in promoting good practice within the directory industry. Susanna Smart, head of corporate communications at Reed Information Services and a board member of the DPA, for example, says that Reed has very strict rules for its sales people. She says: “Our reps never put anything in a directory unless they have the client’s signature on an order form.”

The DPA has a code of professional practice which it requires its members to follow. This covers such matters as quality, copyright, best commercial practice, data protection and direct marketing, requirements to follow the code of advertising practice, and conciliation and arbitration procedures to settle disputes.

The DPA also collates and sponsors research into the industry and into advertisers’ use of directories. It claims that in 1994, directories took 10.5 per cent of the total advertising “cake” in the UK, and that the amount of advertising revenue the industry attracts is increasing steadily. Nicholas Service, chairman of the DPA’s statistics committee, says: “All the indicators point to strong growth in advertising revenues for the directory publishing industry in the coming years.”

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