Caroline Spelman's junk mail crackdown delayed amid row

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News

image captionUK households get more than 370 items of unsolicited mail a year

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has been forced to delay plans to make it easier for people to stop junk mail, it has emerged.

The minister vowed last year to end the "mountain" of unwanted post faced by many households.

But a new opt-out website promised for April failed to materialise after a row with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which is due to run the scheme.

Both sides insist the site will be launched "as soon as possible".

However, Robert Rijhkof, of the Stop Junk Mail campaign, said: "It really looks like it is not going to happen at all."

Mr Rijkhof, who uncovered the row through Freedom of Information requests and has written about it on his blog , said: "It's about the junk mail industry being unwilling to make reducing unsolicited leaflets easier and a government department, Defra, being unable to defend its corner."


Under the proposed Door Drop Preference Service, householders were meant to be able to opt out of receiving unsolicited flyers by contacting a single website rather than the three different services currently in existence.

But the DMA has accused Defra of reneging on an agreement to include publishers of free newspapers in the scheme.

The trade body argues that if its members sign up to the opt-out scheme, firms will simply switch their junk mail advertising to newspapers and other methods of delivery.

Defra says it had a deal with the DMA to deliver the website in April and has held talks with other trade bodies representing local newspapers and other businesses, with a view to including them in the opt-out scheme.

A Defra spokesperson said: "The responsibility deal we agreed with the DMA was set up to help households opt out of unwanted and unnecessary mail.

"We have met with other relevant industries to encourage them to adopt similar commitments in line with our part of the agreement.

"We are disappointed that the DMA have failed to launch the website on time but we are working with them to deliver this service for consumers as soon as possible."

'More pressure'

But the DMA insisted it was Defra that had not stuck to its side of the deal.

DMA chief of operations Mike Lordan said they had entered into an agreement with the government department on the understanding ministers would make an effort to sign up other trade organisations to the voluntary scheme.

He said the DMA had completed construction of the website by April, as agreed, and was ready to "push the button" on it as soon as the other groups came on board.

"We really do need Defra to put a lot more pressure on these other bodies," he added.

The average UK household receives more than 370 items of unsolicited paper mail a year, the majority of it unaddressed.

UK-wide, an estimated nine billion items of unaddressed mail are sent every year. According to the Royal Mail, more than 17 million people bought from a posted catalogue last year.

At the moment, people seeking to block junk mail have to register on each of the Mailing Preference Service, the Your Choice Preference System and the Royal Mail's Door-to-Door opt-out service.

Marketing bodies say the direct mail industry supports 280,000 jobs and generates billions in income.

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