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29 August, 2006

Addressing door-to-door junk mail

I'd like to think that anyone reading this in the UK will already be aware that it's possible to opt-out of receiving personally-addressed yet unsolicited commercial mail, by registering with the Mailing Preference Service (and associated phone & fax services).  However, that still leaves all the unaddressed junk mail.

There's not much one can do about leaflets hand-delivered by the companies themselves, but I've discovered that it is entirely possible to avoid the unaddressed items delivered door-to-door by Royal Mail postmen. The Royal Mail remains legally obliged to deliver anything addressed to 'The Occupier', but the opt-out still covers quite a lot (about a quarter of all unaddressed junk mail, apparently).

Needless to say, the Royal Mail is paid to deliver leaflets door-to-door, so doesn't exactly advertise that the opt-out exists. I discovered it via a BBC report about a postman who produced his own advisory leaflet and delivered it to households on his rounds. Well done, Roger Annies, even if your bosses' response was to suspend you for misconduct.

The opt-out procedure itself is extremely straightforward. Simply write to the following address, stating your name, address (including postcode) and that you are asking the Royal Mail to cease delivery of Door to Door mail (that's their specific name for the service) to your address. Remember to sign and date your request.

Door to Door Opt Outs
Royal Mail Door to Door
Kingsmead House
Oxpens Road
Oxford
OX1 1RX

Alternatively, send the same details in an e-mail to:
optout@royalmail.co.uk
Or phone:
08457 950 950.

[See updates, below, and follow-up, here. Sending an e-mail will get you a printable confirmation form, which needs to be returned by post. I suspect a phone call would have had the same result, but the line has been closed.]

The BBC claims one has to complete a form, but the staff of my local post office knew nothing about that. Luckily, the postmaster is a reader of the Daily Mail (he seems quite rational otherwise) and told me that there was a form in today's 'newspaper'. I bought a copy (I hope you appreciate the sacrifice), but discovered that the Mail had composed its own form rather than duplicating something 'official', so a normal letter, e-mail or phone call should be entirely adequate.

A Royal Mail spokesman, quoted in the BBC article:

"Royal Mail's future depends on competing effectively in all parts of the market and that includes unaddressed mail, a service which is used by a great many firms and people, whose businesses depend on it."
If, like me, you don't give a **** about the Royal Mail's future viability as a sp*mmer, opt-out today.


[Update 16:37: The Royal Mail responded to my opt-out e-mail within 30 minutes, which was impressive in itself, but the message was a clarification and/or attempt to dissuade me.
No, I'm not "considering 'Opting Out' of receiving Door to Door items", I am opting-out.

The points they wished to bring to my attention are:

  • This opt-out only relates to unaddressed mail. Items addressed to a specific name, to 'The Occupier' or to any other generic recipient will still be delivered, by law.
  • It's not possible for the Royal Mail to distinguish between commercial advertising material and official communications from Central/Local Government & other public bodies [at present – see follow-up]. Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door stops all unaddressed items.
  • Self-evidently, the opt-out will affect all residents of the designated address – do they agree with this action?
These are all fine with me, so I returned the enclosed form by e-mail.

Two points:

  • The clarification e-mail came from an address which doesn't accept replies. Cunning....
    Don't simply hit 'Reply:', but change the 'To:' address to optout@royalmail.co.uk.
  • I suspect that they're not going to accept my e-mailed reply, as the form seemed intended to be printed, signed and posted (in an envelope – remember them?). I object to paying the Royal Mail to transport my message to the Royal Mail, so sent the e-mail anyway. I'll let you know if it's rejected.
I presume that if you write or ring to opt-out, the Royal Mail will want to send you a 'clarification' too. You might be able to short-circuit the process by stating in your initial communication that you "understand the implications of opting-out of receiving deliveries of Royal Mail unaddressed ‘Door to Door’ items to your address", and that you "understand that you may miss important information from local, national or government publications that are sent using this service."]


[Update 17:01: I was right. Sending the completed form to that e-mail address resulted in my receiving the same generic response and a blank, printable form. Might as well just send a letter in the first place.]

Comments

The opt-out telephone number doesn't work any more: it stopped taking calls this morning. The only way to opt out now is to print out, sign and send them a paper form like this one I made earlier.

Posted by Rob Hinkley at August 30, 2006 03:24 PM

I've been opted out from the Door to Door service for several years now. Despite what Royal Mail say about the danger of not receiving information from 'local, national..." publications I still received the recent Royal Mail Size Change leaflet, which their Direct Marketing Director claimed on the Jeremy Vine show was delivered by 'Door to Door'. I also received some time ago the government What to do in an Emergency leaflet (remember that) which was also delivered using the 'Door to Door' service. So they are being disingenuous about their warnings. When I first opted out the postie remarked I was the only one to do so in the local sorting office - it apparently involves putting a marker on your sorting rack. This wouldn't be very workable if lots of people opted out and would bump up Royal mails costs considerably for delivering unaddressed mail, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they didn't appear to advertise the service anywhere. The opt out service does work though and along with MPS has entirely eliminated my Junk Mail.
I've put in a Freedom of Information request asking in effect if they have a policy of minimising publicity about the opt out service and just how many requests for opt out they have had in each of the past five years.

Posted by Iain Wright at August 30, 2006 05:00 PM

Royal Mail are still the big cheese in these parts (Northern Ireland) and living out in the stix helps eliminate the self delivered leaflets although most of those are some poor sod just trying to make a living. I don't mind those so much. If I opt out it will mean no more free newspapers or council information as Postman Pat delivers those too but I think I can live with the loss.

It seems , since all the media coverage, that they will only accept your request to opt out by post. It's even worth the price of the stamp, I doubt if that will deter the determined :)

Posted by Caroline at August 30, 2006 06:48 PM

.. I wonder how the Royal Mail would like to receive back all our unwanted junk mail?

Posted by Julie at August 30, 2006 10:11 PM

I receive 'door to door' junk mail almost every day. I just post it into my local post box - don't know what happens to it then.

Posted by Robert Parker at August 30, 2006 11:34 PM

Roger Annies be must laughing his head off.

All he wanted to do was alert the few folk on his postal round.

Some jobsworth moron in the 'Human Resourses' department (too thick to get a job in the private sector?) at the Post Office obviously thought that he would teach Roger a lesson.

Now the whole nation knows what Roger knew, and they're inundated with people from John o'Groats to Land's End asking to opt out!
Haa haa haaaahaaaa.

Posted by Paul Downes at August 31, 2006 12:06 AM

By the way, I like the opt out pro-forma.

Can I suggest a minor improvement?

Change the first word from 'Request' to 'Instruction'

Let the bast**ds know who's boss.

Posted by Paul Downes at August 31, 2006 12:16 AM

You don't need to pay for any mail addressed to Royal Mail because the recipient pays for any surcharged items and Royal Mail will not charge themselves, So send your opt out forms free of charge.

Posted by Dave at August 31, 2006 09:04 AM

About time we all stood together, and think of of all the land fill sites it could save!
I nominate Roger Annies for a Knighthood or at least an OBE for his act of common sense!!!!!!

Posted by tina turton at August 31, 2006 11:56 AM

Thanks for the info and well done Paul Downes and Dave for their efforts, not forgetting Roger Annies.

Posted by Eric Beer at August 31, 2006 05:19 PM

The e-mail address doesn't seem to be working. Has anyone else managed to get through?

Posted by Rosemary Hill at September 4, 2006 12:18 PM

I think the address 'died' a few days ago.
However, as I mentioned, one couldn't opt-out by e-mail anyway (the auto-response simply provided a very basic printable form), so it's no real loss. Just send a letter, including the points I covered in the main entry.

Posted by NRT at September 4, 2006 04:58 PM

Got the printable form by email, designed not to be printed out!

Change the font to a fixed with type like courier and then reduce type size to that it fits to the paper!

Anything to make life difficult!

Posted by Steve at September 4, 2006 09:29 PM

Yup - the Opt_out@royalmail.com address is completely bogus. Also the person who drew up the form must be having a laugh - whilst you're opting OUT of door-to-door, you're opting IN to Royal Mail's marketing letters by default.

You couldn't make it up, could you?

Posted by Raymondo at September 5, 2006 01:23 PM

The history is interesting. When Michael Hesseltine became Postmaster-General (it was a *Cabinet* post in those days) his first question for the chiefs was "how much does it actual cost to deliver a letter? PO chiefs had no idea. For years they had merely asked for more when it was clear they we running at a loss, and for years Governments had given them less than they asked for; for fear of being seen to "increase the cost of living" "stoke inflation" etc. It is said that pre-Busby, the telephone service subsidised the Mail for years.

The question is surely, should a vital service (and even in the US it is a *public* service) be forced into raising income by such methods? I believe that the current management has done a huge amount to rectify the management ineptitude that MH found. It is all too likely that the service we (subconciously) demand cannot be provided at the price.

To be honest, I would rather pay an economic price for my mail ( I send 50-60 items a week in my business, so that would affect me) than have this sort of farago with the RM.

Posted by Paul at September 11, 2006 01:37 PM

With RM loosing millions of items a year can we hopefully assume that a fair proportion of un-addressed junk mail also disappears. Alas I doubt it for the junk takes an entirely different route. If the RM could loose this stuff they would indeed be doing us all a favour.

Posted by John HW at September 27, 2006 10:40 AM
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