Home Blogs Diary 2011 01

APG on Junk Mail - an obituary

26th January 2011

Another propaganda tool of the direct marketing industry has gone. September last year the Direct Marketing Association pulled the plug on its My DM website; this time the All-Party Group on Junk Mail has decided enough is enough.

The cause of its death is unknown. Suicide can't be ruled out; there's every reason to believe members of the group increasingly felt they had lost autonomy and that nobody took them seriously. However, no suicide note has been left and none of the group's members has so far been willing to come forward as witness.

As was the case with the death of My DM, the APG's remains were found only by change. Last week I wrote to all individual members of the APG (or former members, as it turns out), as earlier e-mails sent to the group's e-mail address (apg@apg-junkmail.org.uk) never got a reply. I actually suspected the reason for the lack of response was that the group's secretariat was provided by the Read Group Plc, a major player in Junk Mail Land. In my e-mails I had questioned whether or not it was right that the APG's website promotes two commercial opt-out services for junk mail, both run by the Read Group Plc, without mentioning the Read Group Plc's competitors. It wouldn't surprise me if the e-mails didn't make it past the censorship board and ended up in the junk mail folder.

Anyway, the APG on Junk Mail is dead. I'm not sure when it died. Its website still exists, and the domain name – owned by the Read Group Plc – won't expire for another two years. However, the group isn't on the latest Register of All-Party Groups.

It's not a loss. Judging by its name the group may have started out with the aim of helping people reducing junk mail but somewhere along the line it became a toy for junk mailers. If you can find a single sentence on the website of which the direct mail industry would not fully approve, let me know and I'll send you a 'No Junk Mail' sticker. I mean, have a look at for instance the About Junk Mail page… it's nothing less than an ode to the junk direct mail industry. [Hyperlink removed now that the website no longer exists – JB]

Even the Junk Mail Toolkit [Hyperlink removed now that the website no longer exists – JB], which MPs are encouraged to use to help constituents with complaints about junk mail, hardly contains any information about reducing junk mail. It mentions the Mailing Preference Service (but wrongly states that signing up to the scheme will remove people's address details from up to 95% of direct-mail lists); the Door-to-Door Opt-Out; and the two commercial opt-out schemes run by the Read Group Plc (the Bereavement Register and It's My Post). That routinely ticking opt-out boxes is far more effective than registering with the Mailing Preference Service isn't mentioned. That you can force individual junk mailers to remove your personal details from junk mail lists by sending a Data Protection Notice isn't mentioned. That the edited electoral register is used by the industry as a cheap mailing list and that you can prevent that your personal details are sold to junk mailers by your local Council isn't mentioned. And that a 'No Junk Mail' sticker is the most effective measure against unaddressed leaflets isn't mentioned. The Toolkit counts 14 pages, and the Read Group Plc managed to only squeeze in only four tips for reducing junk mail, two of which are self-congratulatory advertisements for its own commercial opt-out schemes.

Oh well, we still got the Guide to Stamping Out Junk Mail.

Last updated: 
26th January 2011