01 November 1999

PROPOSALS to restrict commercial access to the Electoral Roll have been roundly criticised by the DMA. It has urged home secretary Jack Straw to reconsider the report of the Home Office Working Party on Electoral Procedures, which recommends that electors be given the right to tick an opt-out box on the electoral registration form, refusing permission for their details to be used for commercial purposes. The gov-ernment, concerned at poor electoral turnouts, believes that fear of being targeted by junk mail may deter voters from registering. The DMA maintains that there is no evidence to support this, and argues that omis-sion of such people will not prevent them from receiving mail based on other data sources. The DMA's con-cern is justified: in a recent poll conducted by NOP for Marketing magazine, 64% of voters said they would opt-out if given the chance. Alongside a number of claimed [and somewhat implausible] disadvantages to consumers if the opt-out is adopted, the DMA points to the all-too-plausible consequences for the industry - extra costs in obtaining alternative, less reliable data; higher unit costs leading to reduced business volumes; increased bad debt and/or fraud; increased costs to consumers and the threat to, even loss of, thousands of di-rect marketing jobs.