Junk mail: There ought to be a law!
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Junk mail: There ought to be a law!

Washington : DC : USA | Jul 15, 2013 at 8:14 AM PDT
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Stopping Junk Mail

American rights to privacy clearly stated in the Fourth Amendment are being eroded by the US government under the auspices of national security with the expansion of the Patriot Act, but government spying fades in comparison to how your personal information is being used everyday by direct marketing campaigns for the purpose of loading your mail box with junk mail.

How many times have you tossed junk mail and said to yourself, “There ought to be a law against sending me this junk”? This kind of mail is a major source of frustration, and it is detrimental to the environment and the collection process compromises your privacy. There are other components in addition to it being a personal nuisance that could be remedied by disallowing junk mail. Reducing the amount of junk mail you receive will save energy, natural resources, landfill space, tax dollars, and save a lot of your personal time and preserve your privacy.

How do companies know you?

Junk mail is the result of direct marketing campaigns designed to encourage you to buy a product or service. It's called direct marketing because it attempts to match you and your buying preferences with offers that are likely to make you buy a product or service, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Next time you make a purchase and give a company your name and address, more than likely you are being added to one or more mailing lists used for direct marketing. This is true when you buy a car or a house, use a shopping card, sign up for a credit card, subscribe to a magazine, buy something from a catalog, give money to a charity, or fill out a product registration form including sweepstakes and prizes.

There is no expectation of privacy once you divulge your personal information.

As the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse states:

Your name, address, and other contact information, as well as the type of product or service, is entered into a computer database. The business that collected the information will use it to solicit more business from you. They might also rent their list to other businesses so they can send you advertisements. Lists are valuable, and renting lists is big business.

I knew about selling lists of names, but renting someone’s personal information is a new category.

“Renting information” suggests these lists are constantly being updated as personal information changes ensuring direct marketers are constantly revising their lists to make sure they know if you have moved. Indeed, once you are on one of these lists, your name remains there basically forever. In some cases people who have passed away continue to receive mail for years.

Here are some junk mail facts you might not know, as presented at donotmail.org:

  • Direct mail creates 10 billion pounds of solid waste
  • It costs communities over $1 billion annually to collect and dispose of it.
  • 62% of phone books and advertising mail is not recycled
  • Marketers spend $17 Billion on postage alone to send advertising mail.
  • Approximately 44% of junk mail goes to landfills unopened.
  • The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year. More than 100 million trees for all US households combined.
  • Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that is not recycled
  • On average, Americans spend 8 months opening junk mail in their lifetime

There are many ways you can have your name removed from lists by registering your name at Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Registering with them does not guarantee permanent removal from its database in the “Do Not Mail” category. But why should an individual have to go through their process in order to stop unwanted junk mail?

Get off credit bureau lists

You can also go to OptOutPreScreen.com, which can enable you to remove your name from lists that mortgage, credit card and insurance companies use to mail you offers and solicitations. It’s a centralized website run by the four major credit bureaus in the United States: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion.

Most businesses check with one or more of these companies before accepting your credit card or granting you credit for a long-term purchase. They are also a huge source of names and addresses for credit card, mortgage and insurance companies that routinely send junk mail to attract new customers and solicit new business. But there’s a way to fight back. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to delete your name from their rented lists if you make the request.

Telemarketing

Telephone direct marketing is controlled by laws. These consumer protection laws are governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by a ruling protecting consumers from telemarketers. The rule requires "(1)prior express written consent for all autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing calls to wireless numbers and residential lines; (2) allow[s] consumers to opt out of future robocalls during a robocall; (3) limit[s] permissible abandoned calls on a per-calling campaign basis, in order to discourage intrusive calling campaigns; and (4) exempts prerecorded calls to residential lines made by health care-related entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

If the FCC has deemed it necessary and appropriate to protect the privacy of citizens’ telephone numbers, then advancing those protections to include US mail is logical moving forward because the same methods for obtaining personal information are used by both.

A new law once passed by Congress could be administered by the FCC and called: The Direct Marketing Mail Consumer Protection Act

Personal information, including but not limited to name, address, and phone number, obtained through second or third parties et al for the purposes of direct marketing via the United States mail service is prohibited unless the individual has specifically given consent to the marketing division of a business, corporation, non-profit corporation, charity, or banking institution. Stipulations in this law apply to both national and international business and corporate concerns operating in the United States and its territories.

If Americans could vote on this law today it would, without a doubt, be passed.

Resources:

http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/junkmail.htm

https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm

http://epic.org/privacy/telemarketing/

http://www.donotmail.org/section.php?id=3

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junk mail
Junk mail creates 10 billion pounds of solid waste a year.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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