My local Town Council is about to get us to vote on a local issue. The ballot papers will be addressed to 'The Household'. Can you let me know if households that have stopped junk mail will still get a ballot paper?
Unsolicited mail items with a generic addressee (such as 'to The Household') and junk mail opt-out schemes are a complicated area. I hope the following clarifies when such items are and aren't delivered to householders registered with opt-out schemes and/or have a 'No Junk Mail' sign on their door.
First of all, it matters whether or not the items are addressed or unaddressed. If 'The Household' is the full address the items are unaddressed. However, if they're addressed to 'The Household' and include a postal address (or 'delivery point', in Royal Mail jargon) then the items are addressed. To illustrate this, the following item would be unaddressed:
But this would be addressed:
Addressed junk mail
If the items are addressed they'll always be delivered. People registered with the Mailing Preference Service will still get the items as the opt-out scheme can only prevent personally addressed advertisements – the scheme makes an exception for items with a generic addressee. (Plus, the Mailing Preference Service is unlikely to prevent addressed mail from organisations that aren't members of the Direct Marketing Association – and it's very unlikely your local council is a member).
Unaddressed junk mail
Things are a lot more complicated if the letters will be send unaddressed. Whether or not unaddressed to 'The Household' items would be delivered to all people depends on the company responsible for the distribution. There are three possibilities:
- If the items are distributed by Royal Mail they would in all probability not be delivered to households registered with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out. Royal Mail's opt-out scheme stops all unaddressed mail items, including unaddressed items which include a generic addressee. However, when (local) government feels an item should really be distributed to each and every household in a certain area an exception to this rule can be made. This has happened in the past with for instance the 'Swine Flu' leaflet – this was delivered to all households in the UK, including those registered with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out.
- If the items are distributed by a distribution company that is a member of the Direct Marketing Association they would not be delivered to householders registered with the Your Choice Preference Scheme. There are no exception to this rule.
- If the items are distributed by a distribution company that's not a member of the Direct Marketing Association it's not entirely clear if the items would be delivered to households with a 'No Junk Mail' sign on their door. Such signs are an informal way of stopping junk mail; they're not part of the junk mail industry's self-regulatory framework. Luckily, leaflet distribution companies tend to be less stubborn than the Direct Marketing Association – just about all such companies nowadays instruct deliverers to respect 'No Junk Mail' signs. In this particular case, though, that might mean there's a risk that some householders may not get their ballot paper! Of course it would be common sense to ignore 'No Junk Mail' signs when distributing ballot paper &ndash but your council should make it clear to the distributor that its mail items aren't ordinary junk mail.