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Home Blogs Diary 2010 04

Political junk mail, and how to stop it

24th April 2010

Anyone who thought that 2010's election campaign would be all about tweeting and social networking was wrong. I mean, just look at it…

Lots of political leaflets.
Help! Political parties want to communicate with me!

Politicians call it 'election communications', junk mailers call it 'direct marketing', you probably call it 'junk mail'. Much as I like to think that all this stuff plays an important part of the democratic process, as the Green Party would have it, I very much doubt it does. Most of the political leaflets that have come through my door in recent weeks contain very little information about what the parties stand for, and what they have to say is largely negative (about the other parties, of course).

How do you stop political junk mail?

It depends, as is the case with stopping junk mail in general, on whether or not the junk mail is addressed or unaddressed. In the case of addressed junk mail you should be able to stop most of it by signing up to the Mailing Preference Service. The three main parties are all members of the Direct Marketing Association and therefore obliged to use the MPS suppression file to prevent they contact people who have registered with the opt-out service.

The only thing to be aware of with the Mailing Preference Service is that your registration will be ignored if you at some point have given your personal details to a political party and failed to tick an opt-out box in the small print. If you have ever completed a survey organised by a political party, for instance, you'll probably find that you've become a prime target. To get off the mailing list again you can send them a Data Protection Notice.

Unaddressed political leaflets are near-impossible to stop. If you have signed up to Royal Mail's Door-to-Door Opt-Out (to stop unaddressed mail delivered by the postman) you'll be sad to learn that all parties standing in a constituency are entitled to have one 'election communication' delivered for free by Royal Mail. These leaflets will be pushed through your door, regardless of whether or not you have signed up to Royal Mail's opt-out scheme. However, subsequent political leaflets delivered by Royal Mail do come under the door-to-door scheme, so signing up will prevent some leaflets.

Political parties delivering their own leaflets usually ignore 'No Junk Mail' stickers. This is because political leaflets are seen as 'informative' rather than 'commercial' advertising mail. Although there is no official definition of 'unaddressed junk mail' it's more or less understood that genuine information shouldn't come under the heading 'junk mail'.

So what to do if you have no need for unaddressed 'election communications'? You can try contacting the sender, or take revenge by returning the junk mail in an unstamped envelope. In all honesty though, it's unlikely it will stop the flow. Yet, there's hope… What did the trick for me was this simple sign. It has been up for now a week and not a single (unaddressed) leaflet has been pushed through the door since!

A hand-written sign that reads 'No Political Leaflets'.
Last updated: 
24th April 2010