PO under attack for links with junk mail database

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The Independent Online

The Post Office came under attack yesterday over plans by the Royal Mail to take part in a mass exercise to find out what kinds of junk mail households want to receive.

The Post Office came under attack yesterday over plans by the Royal Mail to take part in a mass exercise to find out what kinds of junk mail households want to receive.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which counts Centrica, Great Universal Stores and John Lewis among its members, claimed that the Royal Mail's planned involvement in the Postal Preference Service would be an abuse of its monopoly position and misleading to consumers.

The PPS is the brainchild of two entrepreneurs, Bryan Cassady and Thomas Adalbert, who plan to build up a giant junk mail database by sending questionnaires to every household in the country asking about their lifestyle and interests and the type of direct mail they want to receive. Information gathered would then be sold to commercial organisations to help them clear out their own databases and target direct mail more accurately.

Judith Donovan, DMA chairwoman, wrote to the Royal Mail in July voicing concerns about its involvement and seeking assurances that its branding would not be used and that it would not be subsidising the service. The Royal Mail failed to respond and so the DMA has now written to all 850 of its members, along with the new postal regulator, Graham Corbett, and MPs voicing its concerns.

"The Royal Mail has one of the strongest brands in the country, one that conveys association with government and royalty," said Mrs Donovan "Requests from organisation would therefore command an authority far exceeding other organisations."

Apart from abusing its position as the only provider of a universal postal service, the DMA fears that the initiative could mislead consumers into assuming they would be able to stop unwanted junk mail.

A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: "At the moment we have trialled the system but no decision has yet been taken on the way forward so it is bit premature for the DMA to be criticising us. We will make a decision shortly."

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