I've solved part of the confusion surrounding the Door-Drop Preference Service. To refresh your memory, Defra told me in March that the super-duper opt-out scheme for unsolicited, unaddressed mail was dead and buried; a claim that was was subsequently disputed by the Royal Mail and Direct Marketing Association. Defra's Producer Responsibility Team Leader has now clarified the situation. She recently sent me an e-mail to say:
I think this is just a difference in interpretation – I never said the scheme was 'abandoned, or killed off', just that Defra were not taking any further action, and that 'the DMA have decided not to take this aspect of the voluntary agreement forward at the current time.'
Silly me… I should have understood that the statement I got in March was political. Saying that
no further action will be taken to implement an initiative and that it
won't be taken forward doesn't mean it's abandoned, in the same way that President Clinton was telling the truth when he insisted that he hadn't had
sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky – after all, she had only given him a couple of blowjobs.
Defra has actually amended the statement they sent me in March. I recently got a letter from the Parliamentary Under Secratary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs, in response to a number of questions I had asked about the responsibility deal between Defra and the junk mail industry (via my local MP). The letter includes Defra's press statement about the Door-Drop Preference Service, which now ends with:
The scheme could be revived if any party thought it appropriate to do so.
So yes, it has only been kicked into the long grass!
The letter itself is interesting for another reason: it doesn't answer any of the questions I had asked. Most of my questions were quite specific. I had asked, for instance, why no minutes are taken at meetings between Defra and the junk mail industry and whether or not Defra properly scrutines the junk mail industry's research into waste caused by junk mail (which underpins the responsibility deal). Here's the reply:
As I am sure you will appreciate, public funding is under extreme pressure and the Government must make sure that the limited funding available for Defra's waste management activities is focused on the key priorities that only the Government can and must do. This recognises that the Government's role should reduce as businesses increasingly realise the economic and commercial opportunities that arise from resource efficiences and tackling environmental challenges. We do not consider there to be a clear market failure in this area and believe that business is best placed to act. While we continue to monitor delivery against the remaining parts of the voluntary agreement, Defra is taking no further proactive action in this area.
The answer suggests that the responsibility itself will not be 'taken forward at the current time'. I've asked for clarification, though I'm not holding my breath for a clear answer.