One of the many negative effects of self-regulation by the junk mail industry is that junk mail campaigners are to a large extend dependent on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). In particular local Councils will find it difficult to run a 'stop junk mail' campaign without the co-operation of the representative of British junk mailers.
Why? Because more than other campaigners local Councils need the help of the DMA. Any self-respecting local authority will want to measure the effect a 'stop junk mail' campaign has sorted, if only to avoid an attack from the Taxpayer's Alliance. In order to measure the effect of a campaign, Councils need to be able to compare the number of opt-outs in a certain area before and after the campaign. The data needed to make that comparison is held by the junk mailers united in the DMA. To get it you better be kind.
Or, take what the DMA calls 'third party registrations'. If a Council wants to organise road shows and other events at which people can sign up to opt-out services they need the DMA / MPS to accept such registrations. And they're not always willing to do so. The DMA's policy on 'third party registrations' is rather mysterious. For no obvious reason 'third party registrations' are sometimes accepted, sometimes treated as 'requests for information', and sometimes completely ignored.
When I launched the Junk Buster widget (which allows you to contact up to six different opt-out schemes in one go) I found myself in the latter category. The DMA threw a wobbler and showed its authoritarian side. The information in Stop Junk Mail's Guide to Stamping Out Junk Mail, they said, was
ambiguous and it would therefore be
inappropriate for the DMA to be contacted via Junk Buster. And anyway,
as a rule the MPS does not accept third party registrations.
The argument was always a complete non-starter as people can only use Junk Buster to request an information pack and opt-out form for the opt-out services run by the DMA (the MPS and Your Choice). In the lengthy discussion that followed after I found out about the DMA's refusal to co-operate it also became clear that the DMA could not mention a single of example of
ambiguous information. And as soon as I asked them if they would be so kind as to send me a copy of the rules surrounding the MPS (and the policy on 'third party registrations') they went into hiding. I have heard no word from the representative of junk mailers since.
My experience with the DMA thus leads me to two conclusions:
- The DMA / MPS makes up the rules as they go along and can't be held to account.
- The DMA / MPS can refuse any co-operation with a 'stop junk mail' campaign purely on the basis that they don't like the campaign.
In other words, the DMA / MPS claims to have a monopoly on information about reducing junk mail. If your campaign doesn't get the approval of the DMA's Board of Censorship they may try to sabotage your campaign, without bothering to explain why.
Opt-out services such as the MPS should not be run by junk mailers. Ideally, there would be an independent organisation in which both junk mailers and the public are represented. At the moment only the interests of junk mailers are served.