Many people get annoyed when they receive unwanted calls, texts, emails and letters. Having worked in the direct marketing industry for 35 years I thought I would put together a short guide covering the steps you can take to reduce the amount of marketing you receive and put you in more control.
In direct marketing terms there are 4 marketing ‘channels’; Telephone (voice calls), Text / SMS, Email and Postal (letters, catalogues etc). Online advertising is not covered in this article as it’s a complex subject which I might cover in a separate article.
The steps you can take to reduce unwanted marketing for each of the 4 marketing channels are listed below.
It’s important for me to highlight that these steps only deal with marketing related communications. You may receive calls, texts, emails and letters from companies because they have a legitimate reason to do so (e.g. they are sending you a bill or information about a policy etc). Nothing in this guide will stop those types of communications.
Telephone (voice calls)
The simplest and most effective way to reduce calls is to register your home and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). You can do this for free by visiting their website (https://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps) or by texting “TPS” and your email address to 85095 (you will be charged the cost of a text).
Within 28 days you should find the number of cold calls reducing dramatically. By law all UK based companies have to screen their calling lists against the TPS file. If your number appears on the TPS file they shouldn’t be calling you. The TPS website also contains useful information on how to complain should calls still continue.
Calls from overseas call centres based in India, the Philippines, South Africa etc will not use the TPS file so don’t expect them to stop calling you! In these cases, I tend to add the number they call me from (usually a UK landline or mobile) to the “block” list on my mobile phone.
TEXT / SMS
The rules regarding who has the right to text you are very strict. For marketing purposes the law is clear; if you haven’t given your permission for a company to text you they can’t.
There isn’t a way of registering your mobile number to stop companies texting you with marketing offers. The best way of dealing with them is to raise a complaint with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) – https://ico.org.uk/
The ICO have shown themselves to be pretty strong when it comes to companies texting without the correct permissions in place so its definitely worth contacting them.
Again, the rules about who has the right to email you are very clear. You have to have opted-in to allow companies to send you marketing emails (although some companies find clever ways of circumventing this which are just about legal).
If a company sends you an email there should be an “unsubscribe” option available to you so you can opt-out of further emails. This is usually to be found at the bottom of the email in very small type. If you opt-out of further email contact and the company keep sending further emails report them to the ICO. Again, the ICO are pretty quick to clamp down on this sort of thing.
Additionally I tend to add the email address of the sender to my spam filter so if they do email again it goes straight into my junk folder.
Under the new GDPR law, which came into effect in May 2018, marketing via the postal channel is treated differently from other marketing channels. All companies have to do it demonstrate they have a ‘legitimate interest’ in sending you the marketing communication. There is no requirement for them to have obtained permission from you first.
Having said this it is entirely within your rights to inform a company that you require them to stop sending you marketing information. The most effective way is to register with the Mailing Preference Service. Like the Telephone Preference Service you can register for free by visiting https://www.mpsonline.org.uk/
It takes roughly 30 days for your details to be added to the list and as many marketing campaigns are printed a few weeks in advance it may take a couple of months before you notice a reduction in letters, catalogues etc. It used to be the case that registration with the Mailing Preference Service only lasted 5 years after which time you would need to register with them again. This is no longer the case. Once you are registered you will remain on the MPS file unless you decide to have your details removed.
The MPS website contains a lot of useful information and advice about how you can raise a complaint if companies still keep sending you marketing through the post.
You can also contact the company directly and ask for your details to be removed from their marketing lists.
What happens when someone dies – how do you stop companies marketing to the deceased?
Receiving marketing for a deceased individual is distressing for the relatives and can lead to fraudulent activity taking place (fraud where an individual assumes the identity of a deceased individual is one of the fastest rising crimes in the UK).
If you are registered a person’s death yourself you may be offered the opportunity of using the government’s Tell Us Once service. Having used this service myself when my mother passed away I can highly recommend it. The Tell Us Once service will inform all government agencies (Passport Office, DVLA, DWP etc) of the death and take steps to close down those accounts etc.
Tell Us Once only informs government agencies – it does not inform banks, local government, GPs etc. That responsibility lies with the relatives to deal with.
My advice is to make sure you notify the death of your relative to all the companies and other organisations they had a relationship with as soon as you can. This is particularly so in the case of banks, building societies, insurance and pension companies. This will prevent these organisations from continuing to send letters to the deceased person which might contain enough information for someone to use in identity fraud.
What happens when you move home – how do you stop companies marketing your previous address?
The answer to this question is pretty obvious. Tell them you have moved!
It’s frightening how many people forget to tell a company who they have a relationship with that they have moved home. Without revealing any confidential information I can tell you that one of our clients (who is one of the UK’s largest investment and life insurance companies) has analysed their marketing returns (when the Royal Mail send the letter back to them because their customer no longer lives at the address they hold for them) and they have in excess of 20% of the letters being returned. This means up to 20% of their customers haven’t informed them they have moved.
Not only does this make it difficult for the customer to receive their rightful investment and pension monies it also means the person living at their previous address is potentially receiving very detailed and personal information. Again, all this could be used by the criminally minded to assume the identity of the customer for fraudulent reasons.
There are steps you can take (other than informing the company you have moved). The Royal Mail’s Redirection service provides you with the ability to have any mail redirected to your new house for a period of time. There is a charge for this service but it will mean you can identify those companies you need to notify of the change of address where you haven’t already done so). https://www.royalmail.com/personal/receiving-mail/redirection
When registering for the Royal Mail service you will be invited to allow them to share your new address with companies so they can update your address details. It is entirely up to you whether you give them permission but I would recommend it.
In summary, there are some proactive steps you can take to reduce the amount of marketing you receive and I hope this guide proves useful.
© Reggie’s Mind of Evil 2019
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