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Minor increase in Royal Junk Mail (duh)

14th March 2014

I had an odd call from the Daily Mail on Thursday. They're working on a story about the increase in the amount of junk mail distributed by Royal Mail since the company was privatised. The reporter had learned that the volume of unaddressed mail has increased from 1,513 to 1,560 billion (over a six-month period) and I asked me for a quote.

The first thing to note about the figure is that the percentage increase is hardly shocking. It works out at just over 3%, which is a lot less than the 500% increase predicted by the Daily Mail in 2011. Sure, it's a lot of junk mail and it's sad that the trend is upwards but for the average household the increase is hardly noticeable – we're talking about an increase of just under four pieces of unaddressed junk mail per year. Plus, the figure doesn't say anything about the total amount of leaflets the average household has to put up with – chances are that the increase in Royal Junk Mail has come at the expense of local leaflet distributors.

Another thing to note is that the figures come from Royal Mail's Financial Report for the half year ended 28 September 2014. It's not exactly news.

Anyway, I told the reporter I didn't think it was much of a story and that as far as I'm concerned Royal Mail can distribute as much junk mail as it likes, provided that people have an easy way of stopping and preventing unwanted junk mail. We then briefly talked about the Door-Drop Preference Service and my ongoing quest for information about this rather mysterious opt-out scheme.

If you're following this saga, in December DEFRA rejected my latest Freedom of Information request because it covered an enormous amount of information. That was actually progress; DEFRA previously claimed that it was in the public interest not to release information about the opt-out scheme. What's more, on the day I received the letter I was contacted by DEFRA's Producer Responsibility Team Leader to try and resolve the ongoing battle informally. We agreed that I would receive copies of correspondence / documents that explain what has been done to resolve the differences between DEFRA and the Direct Marketing Association; why the scheme hasn't been launched yet; and where things stand at the moment. Unsurprisingly, this is still ongoing. The latest news is that DEFRA has put together a response but that this hasn't been cleared yet.

I'm hoping the Daily Mail will take up the real story. Today, the launch of the Door-Drop Preference Service has been delayed by 1,077 days, and my request for information goes back 1,032 days. Surely those are statistics the Daily Mail should be interested in!

Last updated: 
14th March 2014

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