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Home Blogs Diary 2011 07

Your Choice isn't dead (yet)

21st July 2011

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that the new website of the Direct Marketing Association doesn't include any reference to the Your Choice Preference Scheme. Not that the junk mail lobby group's opt-out scheme was well-publicised on the old website. There was just one page with information in amongst the usual propaganda about how most people welcome unsolicited, unaddressed mail. If you're interested, you can still view the cached page.

What I didn't mention in the post is that the Direct Marketing Association has also removed all links to a page with information about Your Choice on the Mailing Preference Service website (it did so in May when the Mailing Preference Service website was redesigned). The page about Your Choice on the Mailing Preference Service still exists but unless you know it's there you'll never find it.

So the question is: will Your Choice finally be abolished and replaced by a much more effective and customer-friendly sticker scheme?

The answer is: probably not. It's likely the Mailing Preference Service will be relaunched as an opt-in / opt-out scheme and that Your Choice will be merged into this new service.

Why? It's part, I suspect, of the renewal of a 'producer responsibility voluntary agreement' (I didn't invent that term) between the Direct Marketing Association and Defra. Your Choice was launched in 2008 because Defra demanded an opt-out service for unaddressed mail (the Direct Marketing Association never wanted it) and it has become clear the scheme has so far been a huge failure. Nobody knows how much unsolicited mail Your Choice can prevent; the scheme has never been properly advertised; and householders are discouraged from registering. As a result take up of the scheme has been extremely low; in April 2010 only 1,600 householders had signed up. That's 0.006% of all households.

The fact that nobody is signing up to Your Choice is mentioned in a 'waste prevention' report written for Defra in April 2010. The Direct Marketing Association was panicking at the time. In a meeting of the association's Governance Committee – shortly before the report was presented to Defra – concerns were raised that should the number of registrations on the file not increase, Defra may push for a change in legislation. In its subsequent meeting, in May 2010, the Governance Committee noted that a review of the publicity strategy for Your Choice was urgently needed. The above-mentioned page with information about Your Choice on the Mailing Preference Service website was added not long after that.

Defra realises Your Choice isn't doing much to help cut waste. It's for that reason the new responsibility deal mentions the development of an easy to use opt out process covering both addressed, and most unaddressed direct mail. If this does indeed mean the Mailing Preference Service and Your Choice are going to be linked it's perhaps not a co-incidence the Direct Marketing Association has stopped advertising the existence of the Your Choice scheme completely… they might want to keep the scheme as obscure as possible while they can.

When the Direct Marketing Association's opt-out schemes will be shaken up is unclear. It might never happen – the rumours currently circulating within the industry may well turn out to be just that; rumours. In which case we might have witnessed the death of Your Choice after all.

Last updated: 
21st July 2011