01 April 1999

DATA PROTECTION Registrar Elizabeth France has urged the government to ban the marketing use of data collected in the next national census, due on 29 April 2001.

This will include new questions on income, health and religion,. Although the government had previously indicated that commercial use of the data would be permitted, the DPR’s recommended ban is now under consideration and a decision will be announced this summer.

Marketers are jittery at the prospect of a ban which could cost the industry as a whole around £55m a year, according to research by WWAV Rapp Collins. The study, based on an analysis of 10m mailings undertaken for charities, estimates that withholding electoral data would add 5p to the cost of each mailing pack, thus increasing the cost of donor recruitment.

The obverse view, argued by the DPR, is that the public is becoming increasingly wary of signing-on to the electoral roll, preferring to disenfranchise themselves rather than risk being deluged by unwanted mail.