34  Unsolicited mail, faxes, emails and phonecalls

According to the direct mailing industry, personally addressed letters are among the most effective forms of advertising.  Not everyone is quite so enthusiastic about them, particularly when received in volume for a previous occupant of the premises.  Unwanted, glossy printed matter represents wasted resources and energy.  32% of junk mail is never even opened, and nearly all unaddressed, hand delivered mail and flyers go straight in the recycling bin. (Source - Women's Environmental Network).

Registration with the Mailing, Fax, Email and Telephone Preference Services (see below) can be quite effective, but it may take several months before names are removed from lists, and will have no effect on hand deliveries of junk mail.  To reduce this, see Royal Mail below.

Businesses or individuals determined to receive no more unwanted magazines or literature should either ring or write a letter to the sender, in a pre-paid envelope if provided, saying that they do not want more copies, quoting the code number on the mailing address label.  Note that items marked ‘return to sender’ are likely to be diverted to landfill by the Post Office.

The end-uses for mixed glossy papers and window envelopes are limited, but they are increasingly accepted for recycling with cardboard in local authority collections, and 'junk mail banks' have appeared at some neighbourhood and supermarket recycling sites.

Email spam
The first port of call is through contacting your internet service provider.  They may be able to reduce spam at source, or advise you how to set your computer to do so.  Ofcom (below) may be able to advise.  There are also software programs that may help, but you should seek advice on these from your server, Ofcom or an independent source.

Silent phone calls and faxes  
These are a new form of intrusion - see advice below from Ofcom

Premium rate numbers
See ICSTIS below.  Also Say No to 0870.

Electoral Registers
When you register to vote at the next election, you now have a choice.  Two registers are kept - one is for voting, credit reference and legal purposes. The second is a commercial register, which is for sale to companies who may wish to have your name to contact you so as they can sell their products.  When you receive your electoral registration form, if you tick the box with the option NOT to have your name included on the Commercial Register (provided you check everyone in your household is happy about this), it may reduce your junk mail. 

Use both sides of the paper whenever possible, and make notes on single sided scrap paper.  Use scrap paper as practice sheets.  Don't print out emails and other matter from your computer unless you really need to!

Alphabetical list of organisations

Bereavement Register
Tel 0870 600 7222  Fax 0870 400 5644
Website www.the-bereavement-register.com
The Bereavement Register, Freepost SEA8240, SEVENOAKS, Kent TN13 1YR

Direct mail
Direct mail addressed to a person who has died can be very distressing.  There are a number of ways to stop this.  The Bereavement Register is a free service designed to remove the names and addresses of people who have died from databases and mailing files.  By quickly completing a form, hundreds of companies will be able to identify that your relative or friend has died and remove their details from databases and files.  Mail should begin tailing off within six weeks.  You can find out about the service or register details online at
www.the-bereavement-register.comThe site can also be read in French.  (Operated by the REaD Group, which is appointed by the Direct Marketing Association - see section 34 Unsolicited mail, faxes, emails and phone calls.) 

You can also register their details onto the Mailing Preference Service at
www.mpsonline.org.uk (see below).  This will reduce unsolicited personally addressed mailings received under their name.  This is a free service.  

If there are companies that the person had dealings with, it may be useful to contact these companies direct and inform them of the change of circumstances.  

Telephone calls
Telephone calls can be even more distressing.  At no charge, TBR Call-Guardian
can prevent unsolicited calls from being made by simply blocking the number at the telephone exchange.  This will have no effect on personal calls to your number, as marketing companies which may previously have phoned subscribe to this service using a special type of exchange.  You can contact them at www.the-bereavement-register.com/uk/tbr_call_guardian.htm .  
(Updated Nov 2005)

Break the chain

Website helping to avoid junk email.  Provides the 'Chain-Breakers Library' - a guide to spurious or hoax petitions in circulation.  Its mission is to educate about the shortcomings of e-mail chain letters as a means to distribute information; to empower them to make informed, logical decisions about the information they distribute; and reduce the number who routinely forward e-mail chain letters without questioning their validity or long-term impact.  Over 400 chain letters are circulating, wasting thousands of hours of people's valuable time.  The site aims to help people become smarter, wiser, and more courteous e-mail users.  Also offers a frequently asked questions section, including warnings about viruses and worms, and discussion and advice forum. (Site does not advise on anonymous bulk-mailed spam advertisements and business offers.)  (Updated July 2004)

Direct Marketing Association
Tel 020 7291 3300 / 0845 703 4599  Fax 020 7323 4426
Website www.mydm.co.uk  Email info@dma.org.uk 
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, LONDON W1W 8SS 

Website is the 'consumer face' of a non-profit organisation representing the direct marketing industry, created to provide information on the choices and powers the public have over the direct marketing messages they receive.  Administers mail, fax and telephone preference services (see below).  Advice on reducing junk mail.  Aims to improve consumer trust in direct marketing:  900 member organisations have to adhere to Code of practice standards.  The DMA has developed an environmental responsibility scheme with the Government and is working with the direct marketing industry to make it more environmentally responsible.  Most used or unwanted direct mail can be recycled.  Working to reduce ' silent calls' by offending companies, and may 'strike them off'.  Very useful Frequently Asked Questions page on website.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Email petitions - see Break the chain and Petition online

Email Preference Service
Tel 01895 850181  Fax 01895 850383 
Website www.emailpreferenceservice.com  
Email Preference Service Limited, Deltey House, Thornbridge Road, IVER HEATH, Bucks SL0 0PU

For those who wish to register their e-mail address so as to restrict the receipt of sales or marketing e-mails (spam).  If emails are still being received despite registering, complaints may be made to the Office of the Information Commissioner - see below.  (Updated May 2004)

Fax Preference Service
Tel 0845 070 0702 / 0207 291 3330  Fax 0207 323 4226
Website www.fpsonline.org.uk  Email fps@dma.org.uk 
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, LONDON W1W 8SS  
Contacts  Michele Taylor (Subscriptions), Shella Hussain (Complaints)

It is unlawful for an organisation to send marketing information via fax unless you have given them your express permission.   Like the Telephone Preference Service, to avoid receiving unsolicited faxes, businesses and individuals can register free the fax numbers on which they do not wish to receive unsolicited sales and direct marketing messages.  Fax-marketing companies can receive the numbers of Businesses who have registered by subscribing to the FPS.  The website gives 'list cleansing' services.  This scheme offers statutory protection, by placing obligations on marketing companies and others to respect the wishes of subscribers.  It is monitored by the regulator OFTEL (Tel 0207 634 8700), which appointed the Direct Marketing Association following competitive tender.   It is a legal requirement that organisations do not send such faxes to numbers registered on the FPS, and financial penalties of up to £5000 could be incurred, to phone, or send a fax, without first checking the register to see who does not wish to be contacted.  An information pack explaining business rights and obligations is available from DMA on 0207 291 3300.  Further information can be obtained from local council trading standards advice service.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Tel 0800 500 212  (8am-8pm Mon-Fri) / 020 7940 7474  Fax 020 7940 7456
Website www.icstis.org.uk 
Clove Building, 4 Maguire Street, London SE1 2NQ  or 
Secretariat, ICSTIS, Freepost WC5468, LONDON SE1 2BR

The Premium Rate Regulator.  Industry-funded, non-profit making independent regulatory body for all premium rate charged telecommunications services.  Service is free to consumers.  If an automated call invites you to call a premium rate number (090...), advice is to be very careful in responding:  sending recorded calls is not allowed in the UK - they are breaking UK law and often promote misleading and fraudulent schemes.  You can check the number on the ICSTIS website or ring to ask for advice.  You can bar premium rate numbers from your telephone by contacting BT or your provider.  To unsubscribe from a premium rate text message 'service', send the word STOP back to the sender.  How to complain, more about premium rate numbers, Frequently Asked Questions and factsheets on website.  Role is to prevent consumer harm - requires:  clear accurate pricing information; honest adverstising and service content; appropriate and targeted promotions.  Investigates complaints - can fine companies, and bar the individual(s) behind a company from running any other premium rate services under any company name on any telephone network for a defined period.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
Tel 01625 545745  Fax 01625 545510
Website www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk  www.dpr.gov.uk  Email  mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk  
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, WILMSLOW, Cheshire SK9 5AF 

The regulator for data protection.  Mission: 'Promoting public access to official information and protecting your personal information' .  Registering with the Email Preference Service will help reduce the amount of unsolicited emails you receive from outside the UK and Europe.  If, despite registering, you are still receiving unsolicited emails or text messages that appear to be from the UK, please contact this office.  Most spam, however, comes from outside the UK so is difficult to stop completely.  Can look at complaints about automated marketing calls (eg "Congratulation! You have won a free holiday" or "You have been entered into a free prize draw") but ONLY  if you can identify the caller and they are based in the UK.  If you received an automated marketing call you believe comes from an identifiable UK source, ask for an automated calls complaint form.  If a 'live' telesales call is made to a Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registered phone number you can report it on a telesales calls complaint form.  If an automated call invites you to call a premium rate number (090...), you can ask the premium rate regulator ICSTIS for advice.  Information on data protection, freedom of information, and environmental information regulations.  People may request environmental information from public authorities and those bodies carrying out a public function.  The Commissioner is an independent official appointed by the Crown to oversee the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.  Reports annually to Parliament, and decisions are subject to supervision of the Courts and the Information Tribunal.  Has Regional Offices for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Updated Nov 2005)

Mailing Preference Service (MPS)
Tel 0207 291 3310   Fax 020 7323 4226  
Email mps@dma.org.uk  Website www.mpsonline.org.uk  
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, LONDON W1W 8SS 
Contacts  Chris Mason (Subscriptions), Alison Bell (Complaints)

Non profit organisation operating a free registration scheme funded by the direct mailing industry.  To avoid receiving unsolicited mail, names and home addresses are removed from lists used by the industry.  This should stop up to 95% of addressed direct mail.  Just write to: The Mailing Preference Service, FREEPOST 22, London W1E 7EZ, stating that you would like your details included to stop receiving unsolicited direct mail.  Or ring 0845 7034 599 to request an application form.  Some unwanted mail may continue for a few weeks after registration.  Registration covers all persons sharing the same surname at a single private address unless otherwise requested, and requires renewal at five-year intervals. When direct mailers send volume mailings and use Royal Mail's Mailsort service, they pay a levy which helps fund the MPS.  The service stops most unsolicited advertising material addressed to individuals personally being delivered to their home address by post.  But they will continue to receive advertising from companies with which consumers have done business, or charities to which they have donated in the past, will continue to be delivered. If this mail is not wanted any more, it can only be stopped by contacting the individual company or charity directly.  MPS cannot stop personally delivered items or those addressed to "The Occupier", free inserts in magazines and newspapers, some local mailings or some mail from overseas.  (Updated Nov 2005)

OFCOM  (Office of Communications)
Tel  0845 456 3000  /  020 7981 3040   Switchboard  020 7981 3000  
Fax  0845 456 3333  Main Fax  020 7981 3333
Website  www.ofcom.org.uk   Email  contact@ofcom.org.uk  

Ofcom Contact Centre, Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA

UK's independent regulator for communications industries.  Takes action against misuse of the telecommunications network.  Incorporates Oftel, Broadcasting Standards Commission, Radio Authority and 5 other bodies (archives of these bodies accessible on website).  Responsibilities across TV (programmes and adverts) and radio (including reception and licences), telecommunications (including mobile phone masts) and internet.  Also includes windfarm co-ordination (windfarmenquiries@ofcom.org.uk).    Exists "to further the interests of citizen-consumers as the communications industries enter the digital age".  Consultations and events.  Media office, and complaints about competition (regional offices do not handle complaints).  Will take action on misuse of a public electronic communications network. This includes sending unsolicited commercial email or spam; computer hacking; and malicious communications). 

SILENT CALLS  Telemarketing companies use call centres to dial a call automatically; but the equipment dials more numbers than there are operators available.  The call is then dropped immediately after connection when no operator is available to speak to the number dialled. This produces a 'silent call' - the phone rings but no one is at the other end.  This boosts sales by cutting out manual dialling, but can be worrying to the recipient.  OFCOM's advice: First dial 1471 to find out the number ringing you.  If the number is blocked, ring the operator, who can trace it.  Log the time the silent call was received.  If you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service (see below), your number should NOT be available to any telemarketing company.  Telemarketing companies who are members of the Direct Marketing Association are obliged to comply, but there are still rogue telemarketing companies.  To deal with these, the SILENT CALL GUARD was set up by Ofcom in November 2003: if you register on 0870 4443969, it restricts the dialler to manual dialling.  This will be in place within 48 hours of registration.  BT also have the Nuisance Advice Centre, which can put traces on calls and do further research to help those receiving unwanted calls. BT can instruct companies to remove names from their lists.  Cable companies also have helplines for the same purpose.  The DMA (above) is working with Ofcom to stamp out silent calls and the anxiety caused by this nuisance.

Fax-scanning calls are similar (made for the purpose of establishing if a fax machine responds on a particular number) and can be countered in the same way.  (Updated May 2004)

Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
Tel 020 7211 8000 / 08457 224499 
Website www.oft.gov.uk  Email enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk 
European Enforcement, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX

Body responsible for making markets work well for consumers, by promoting and protecting consumer interests throughout the UK, while ensuring that businesses are fair and competitive.  This is done through enforcement of competition and consumer protection rules, market studies and communication, and overseeing service delivery and transparency.   If you receive a mailing, especially from overseas, which you think is a scam, you can send it here.  The OFT lists three things to look out for in terms of scam or 'con trick' mailings:  they ask you to send money straight away; they give you a PO BOX number as their address; they ask you not to tell anyone about the dealVarious publications - can be downloaded or ordered.
(Updated Nov 2005)

OFTEL (Office Of Telecommunications)  
now part of OFCOM - see above

Office of the Information Commissioner  see ICO

Petition online

Website which helps you support causes by listing or directing you to genuine petitions.  This prevents blocking the emailboxes of friends and acquaintances, particularly with the many hoax or spurious petitions in circulation.  Free hosting of petitions for responsible public advocacy.  Also includes some official responses to petitions.  (Updated July 2004)

Phone Co-op
Tel 0845 458 9040 (residential)   0845 458 9000 (business users)
Website www.thephone.coop  Email enquiries@thephonecoop  
The Phone Co-op Ltd, FREEPOST 1922, Chipping Norton, Oxon OX7 5BR

Residential or business service available to any BT or cable user, with ethical benefits and probably financial savings..  You continue to pay line rental as before but pay Phone Co-op for calls made - 1p minimum call charge.  Offsets all carbon dioxide emissions resulting directly from its activities.  Money-saving deals including directory inquiries, a free 0845 number for friends and family to call you at a local rate, and low-cost broadband internet access.  Profits contribute to Co-op & Social economy Development Fund, which helps new co-operatives with start-up costs.  Also benefits Ecology Building Society and its members. (see section 430).  Customers can become members and benefit from a dividend based on amount spent on calls.   Also low-cost internet dial up service available.  (Updated Aug 2005)

Tel (helpline) 08456 013265  Fax 020 7730 3394 
Website www.postwatch.co.uk  Email info@postwatch.co.uk 
Customer Service, Postwatch, 28-30 Grosvenor Gardens, LONDON SW1W 0TT

Independent consumer watchdog for postal services, campaigning for better postal services for business or individuals.  For complaints about problems, call direct to your postal provider, Royal Mail, Tel 08457 740 740, www.postoffice.co.uk , ParcelForce or competing providers.  But if you are unhappy with the response you get, or need help complaining, Postwatch can take up your case.   Regional postwatch details on website, for more information about what happens in your area (eg public events/workshops), or to ask a member of Postwatch to attend a meeting.  Useful FAQ page on website.  (Updated Aug 2005) 

Royal Mail 
If you want to stop flyers coming through your letter box, and unaddressed mail:  at present there is not one single service that stops all such promotional material.  However, the Direct Marketing Association (see above) are looking into developing such a scheme.  You can stop a significant proportion of unaddressed mail (door drops) by contacting Royal Mail at on 01793 483853 to request an application form.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Say No to 0870

0870 numbers may be costing you more.  And companies that use these numbers usually receive a cut of the phone call costs.  This site gives the 'real' geographical alternative telephone numbers.  Lists many well known companies, and their equivalent geographical numbers.  Just type in the 0870 number and the local code number is given.  Many phone providers offer cheaper calls to standard telephone numbers (those beginning with 01 or 02), which don't apply to 0844, 0845, 0870 or 0871 numbers.  Search by company, number or business sector.  Also online discussion forum.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

Tel 0800 398893 / 0845 070 0707 / 0207 291 3320 / Fax 020 7323 4226  
Email tps@dma.org.uk  Website www.tpsonline.org.uk 
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, LONDON W1W 8SS
Contacts  Vernon Noel (Subscriptions),  Lynn Freshwater (Complaints)

Registration scheme for people who wish to avoid receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls, which many view as an intrusion.  The service is free to individuals, sole traders and partnerships.  Within 28 days of registering, all unwanted marketing calls should stop.  Registration applies to specific telephone numbers, and remains in place until otherwise requested.  If a 'live' telesales call is then made to a TPS registered phone number, you can report it on a telesales calls complaint form (also see Information Commissioner's Office above).  Operated since May 1999 by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the scheme is monitored by the regulator OFTEL (Tel 0207 634 8700), which appointed the DMA following competitive tender.  The scheme offers statutory protection, by placing obligations on marketing companies and others to respect the wishes of subscribers.  It is unlawful, and financial penalties of up to 5000 could be incurred, to make a direct marketing call, or send a fax, without first checking the register to see who does not wish to be contacted.  If you don't want to register, but would like to stop receiving telemarketing calls from a specific organisation, please contact them directly and ask them to stop contacting you - they are obliged to do this by law.  An information pack on the TPS can be obtained by phoning 01932 414161. Further information can be obtained from local council trading standards advice service.  (Updated Nov 2005)