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How do I find out who distributed a leaflet?

6th August 2012

I have several No Junk Mail signs (hand-written and ready-made) on my letter box, and while the amount of junk has reduced, I still get tons of takeaway menus and flyers from local business. How do I find out who's distributing them? I don't mean the guys actually delivering them because they usually don't even speak English, but the companies who employ them. I want them to train their staff to respect people's wishes.

Dr Junk Buster's answer: 

Finding out who distributed a leaflet is usually difficult as junk mail very rarely advertises the distributor. In general, unddressed mail can come from four different sources:

  • Royal Mail;
  • Distribution companies that are members of the Direct Marketing Association;
  • Distribution companies that are not members of the Direct Marketing Association; or
  • Individuals or companies delivering their own leaflets.

Unaddressed mail distributed by Royal Mail can be stopped by signing up to the company's Door-to-Door Opt-Out. Leaflets delivered by the postman are relatively easy to identify. It are usually leaflets from large companies (Virgin Media, Sky, BT, TalkTalk, Domino's Pizza, Direct Line etc.) and sometimes the leaflets will even have a 'Delivered by Royal Mail' logo printed on them. If your postman continues to deliver leaflets to your address after registering with the opt-out scheme you should contact the opt-out admins, in the first instance. Phone 01865 796 964 or send an e-mail.

Nobody knows what leaflets are distributed by distribution companies that are members of the Direct Marketing Association. This is one of the reasons why I refer to this opt-out 'service' as the Your Choice Dummy Scheme. If you don't know whether or not a leaflet was delivered by a distribution company that's a member of the Direct Marketing Association you have no way of knowing whether or not registering with the opt-out scheme is reducing junk mail.

The other two possible sources – distribution companies that are not members of the Direct Marketing Association and individuals and companies who distribute their own leaflets – aren't regulated at all. This is a real shame because it means the 'No Junk Mail' signs on your door are a polite, informal requests only. Even if you'd have your whole door plastered in 'No Junk Mail' signs deliverers could still choose to ignore them.

That's all fine – but how do I stop that junk mail?

The official way to stop or prevent leaflets that are not covered by industry self-regulation is to contact the senders, preferably in writing. Should a sender then continue to push leaflets through your door you could lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. They would probably rule in your favour and tell the sender to be better behaved in future (the ASA is part of the industry's self-regulating framework and doesn't have enforcement powers).

If you want to go after a distributor rather than a sender you could try contacting the sender to find out who distributed a particular leaflet. I'm not sure if this would be worth the hassle though. In my own experience companies ignoring 'No Junk Mail' signs usually distribute their own leaflets, and more often than not the offenders are local take-away outlets. Local leaflet distribution companies are – again in my own experience – usually more professional and respectful. Plus, lodging a complaint to the sender may be more effective. Distribution companies are likely to be sensitive to complaints from companies who use their services. A complaint from a local resident is more likely to be ignored.


Finding out who distributed a leaflet is usually difficult, and even if you manage to find out who the offender was you may find they're not bothered. The problem, in my opinion, is that the Royal Mail and Direct Marketing Association have made reducing unsolicited leaflets needlessly complicated and ineffective. You may therefore want to consider the Justice for the price of an envelope approach instead. If everybody would routinely return all unwanted junk mail to the sender (including unaddressed leaflets) both the senders and distributors would learn their lesson very quickly indeed…

Last updated: 
6th August 2012