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HALBERT'S WORLD BOOK OF NEFFS,     THE NEFFS SINCE THE CIVIL WAR,   and   THE NEFFS IN AMERICA: FROM 1790 TO 1998 by "Joe E. Neff" are three books which have been offered for sale by HALBERT'S of BATH, OH., through direct mail solicitation. The company has twice refused our request to provide advance copies to review for our members. Reports from those who have purchased these books say there is nothing of genealogical importance contained in them. The bulk of the content is a current listing of current same surname and addresses. Please read the following:

From the National Genealogical Society NGS Newsletter, Volume 22, Number 2, March/April 1996, pages 25 and 31:

Halbert's Under Cease and Desist Order

  Halbert's, Inc., of Bath, Ohio, a mail order firm that markets surname products, has agreed to the provisions of a cease and desist order issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) in November 1995. "Halbert's, Family Book Offer," and "Historic Book Offer" are trade names used by Numa Corporation of Akron, Ohio.

  On 23 March 1995, the National Genealogical Society (NGS), with the support of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), submitted to the United States Postal Service's Chief Counsel, Consumer Protection, a 120-page report on Halbert's marketing practices with the request that these practices be investigated.

  NGS and FGS also launched a "grass roots" campaign to encourage the participation and cooperation of genealogists nationwide. A brochure and companion flyer entitled "PSSST! Wanna Buy Your Name?" were mailed to genealogical societies and libraries. Societies were asked to reprint the cartoon and brochure text in their newsletters. Librarians were asked to post the flyer on their bulletin boards. As a result, many people wrote to NGS and its Ethics Committee about the solicitation materials they had received from Halbert's, and others wrote directly to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

  On 21 November 1995, the Postal Service issued a supplemental cease and desist order prohibiting Halbert's from further use of certain misleading marketing practices, which included a consent agreement signed by Halbert's. Previous cease and desist orders issued against Halbert's in 1985 and 1988 remain in effect.

The supplemental order issued in November 1995 includes the following 
     * Halbert's was ordered to cease and desist from falsely 
       representing ". . . that (1) a solicitation for a surname-
       related product was sent by a relative of the solicitee; (2) 
       a relative of a solicitee was involved in preparing a 
       surname-related publication; or that (3) a relative of a 
       solicitee endorses a surname-related product." The Postal 
       Service contended that the company's solicitations, which 
       advertised books such as The World Book of [surname) and The 
       [surname:] Since the Civil War, violated the 1988 consent 
       agreement, because they appeared to be letters from 
       relatives of the addressees urging them to purchase a 
       recently completed book on their family.
     * Halbert's was ordered to begin displaying prominently the 
       following disclaimer on any advertising for surname-related 
       publications: "No direct genealogical connection to your 
       family or ancestry is implied or intended."
     * Halbert's was ordered to cease and desist from ". . . 
       representing, directly or indirectly, that advertising has 
       been approved by the United States Postal Service." 

  The consent agreement entered into by Halbert's in November 1995 contains several other provisions. Halbert's may submit proposed advertising to the USPS General Counsel not more than three times per calendar year to obtain an opinion on whether the advertising violates cease and desist orders. Halbert's must pay $2,000 for each submission to defray investigative, administrative, and legal costs incurred by the Postal Service.

  For a period of one year from the date of execution of the consent agreement, Halbert's must, ". . . within ten (10) days after written request therefor, pay full and unconditional double cash refunds, including postage, handling, and deposits, to all consumers who have previously requested in writing to [Halbert's], and not received within thirty (30) days after the receipt of the written request therefor, refunds in connection with any and all surname-related solicitations in use prior to the date of [the consent agreement]." Halbert's must also accept and honor refund requests from the Better Business Bureau, the Postal Inspection Service, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and any other duly constituted governmental entity which has received complaints from consumers about its promotions.

Under the 1988 cease and desist order, the following conduct by Halbert's
is prohibited:
     * Representing that a book is principally about a particular 
       family name and the history of this family name
     * Representing that a book contains information about 
       someone's forebears and their emigration from Europe
     * Representing that a book contains information about the 
       heraldry and family crest of a particular family
     * Representing that a book explains how a particular family got 
       its surname
     * Representing that a book explains why someone's forebears 
       immigrated to the New World (the United States, Canada, and 
     * Representing that a book explains why persons with a 
       particular surname immigrated to the New World
     * Representing that a book is the result of research through 
       numerous sources by themselves, or someone acting in their 
       behalf, to compile information on persons with the 
       addressee's surname who immigrated to the New World

  The Postal Service has advised NGS that Halbert's is a member of the Direct Marketing Association and participates in the Mail Preference Service. Anyone who does not wish to receive future mailings from Halbert's can have their name deleted from the company's mailing lists by writing to: Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

The NGS Consumer Protection Committee (formerly the Ethics Committee) is chaired by Helen Hinchliff.

[This article may be reprinted in other publications.]

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