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Direct Marketing Association to set up one-point-stop for opting out

The Direct Marketing Association is to introduce its own one-point-stop for registering with junk mail opt-out schemes. In the process the Mailing Preference Service may become an opt-in / opt-out scheme.

The changes are part of the renewal of the voluntary producer responsibility agreement between Defra and the direct marketing industry. The agreement, which dates back to 2003, aims to get the industry to do more to cut waste without introducing new legislation.

The review states that Defra has been discussing with the direct marketing industry how best to reduce waste through the development of an easy to use opt out process covering both addressed and most unaddressed direct mail. The most likely outcome is a single website where people can register with the two opt-out schemes for junk mail run by the Direct Marketing Association: the Mailing Preference Service and the Your Choice Preference Scheme for Unaddressed Mail.

Royal Mail's Door-to-Door Opt-Out is unlikely to be part of any new one-point-stop for registering with junk mail opt-out schemes. Paper directories will certainly not be included; in its discussions with Defra the junk mail industry refused to even discuss the feasibility of an all-encompassing opt-out service.


The Your Choice scheme was introduced as a result of the last review of the waste strategy, in 2007. At the time Government felt an opt-out scheme along the lines of the Mailing Preference Service would make it easier for people to reduce unaddressed advertising mail. However, take up of the Your Choice scheme has been disappointing - in 2009 only 1,600 householders were registered - and the Direct Marketing Association has never done much to promote the service. Defra hopes that a single website for both Your Choice and the more popular Mailing Preference Service will significantly boost opt-out rates.

At the same time the Direct Marketing Association can work on its preferred strategy for reducing waste: better targeting techniques. Rather than allowing people to 'turn off the tap' by opting out the Direct Marketing Association is hoping that better targeting of junk mail will free the industry from its 'junk mail' stigma.

Mailing Preference Service

The Direct Marketing Association's renewed focus on better targeting is likely to be reflected in how the Mailing Preference Service works. For a number of years the Direct Marketing Association has been considering changing the opt-out service for addressed junk mail to an opt-in / opt-out scheme. Such schemes, which are already 'big business' in the United States, encourage people to opt-in to receiving certain types of advertisements while opting out of receiving others. Transforming the Mailing Preference Service to an opt-in / out-out scheme would suit the Direct Marketing Association's strategy to improve targeting - it would provide the junk mail industry with valuable information about people's lifestyles, interests, and consumption behaviour.

A perhaps not unintended side-effect of the change would be that Consumer Focus' one-point-stop for registering with various opt-out schemes run by the Direct Marketing Association, Stay Private, would need to reinvent itself. The Stay Private website works by running scripts on the websites of the Mailing Preference Service, Telephone Preference Service, and other opt-out schemes run by the Direct Marketing Association. In particular if the new Mailing Preference Service website is going to require people to create an account it is going to be difficult for Stay Private to continue its service.

Carbon calculator and PAS 2020

As part of the responsibility deal the industry has also agreed to develop a 'carbon calculator' for the sector. It is not yet clear exactly what the calculator will calculate, and whether or not its calculations will be verifiable.

A final announcement in the waste strategy review is that the industry will introduce a "new Industry Standard for the sustainable production and distribution of direct mail." This is likely to be a revised version of PAS 2020; a voluntary industry standard for 'green' junk mail introduced in January 2009. PAS 2020 is generally regarded as unworkable because it requires that the environmental impact of individual mail-out is calculated. The new standard would probably not include this requirement.


Last updated: 
14th June 2011