Junk mail, spam and unwanted phone calls

Junk mail is unwelcome post addressed to you that drops through your front door. It's often regarded as having little value. ‘Spam’ is the common name for unrequested and unwanted email. You can take action to prevent junk mail, spam and unwanted telephone calls.

What the law says about junk mail

It is legal to send direct mail such as advertisements and special offers. However, advertisements must be lawful, decent, honest and truthful.

Removing yourself from junk mail distribution lists

Preference services have been set up by the direct mail industry to give consumers the option to have their names and home addresses in the UK removed from or added to lists used by the industry. It is free to register with each of them.

The Mailing Preference Service can remove your details from up to 95 per cent of direct mailing lists. To stop advertisers sending you addressed junk mail, write to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). Ask to be removed from the  mailing lists of companies which advertise in this way.

MPS can take several months to register your name for removal. If your name is removed by MPS, other family members or people in your household can still receive direct mail if they want.

Taking this action will not stop mail that has been sent from overseas, or unaddressed material, or mail addressed to 'The Occupier'.  

You can also expect to continue to receive mailings from companies with whom you have done business in the past and you may also receive mailings from small, local companies.

Royal Mail delivers unaddressed leaflets and flyers. If you want to opt out of receiving this type of mail, contact the Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Out service.

You can recycle your unwelcome junk mail. Make sure you don’t put envelopes in the paper recycling collection.

If you have a complaint about junk mail

If you ask MPS to remove your details and you continue receiving junk mail, complain in writing to the companies. You should tell the company they are wasting your time and their money with nuisance mail. You should tell them to remove your name from their lists.

If you consider an advertisement to be misleading or offensive, contact the Advertising Standards Authority.

Find out more about making a complaint against private industry.

The Bereavement Register

The Bereavement Register will remove the names and addresses of people who have died from databases and mailing files. The service is free.

Unwanted calls and removing yourself from phone distribution lists

It is unlawful for companies to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to individuals who have indicated that they do not want to receive them.

You can either contact the companies directly and ask them not to call you or give your details to a central register.

Reducing spam and email marketing

‘Spam’ is the common name for unrequested and unwanted email.

There are laws on email marketing which give you rights of privacy when it comes to the processing and sharing of your personal data by companies.

The responsibility for prohibiting the sending of spam lies with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information.

The ICO website provides general information about spam and gives advice about the steps you can take to prevent or reduce spam.

If you believe your details were used or shared when they shouldn’t have been or you have asked a company to stop sending you junk mail but you keep getting it, then you can contact the ICO’s complaints service.

This gives you the right to ask the Commissioner to exercise enforcement functions.

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