UK Government Urged to Ban Sale of Voters' Addresses to Marketers

15 July 2008

LONDON: The UK's Direct Marketing Association has opposed the findings of a government backed review which recommends curbs on local authorities' sales of electoral-roll data.

The Data Sharing Review produced by Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and the director of medical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, Dr Mark Walport, argues that local councils should no longer be allowed to sell taxpayers' names and addresses for direct marketing use.

The information is gathered each year when residents register to vote, although they can tick a box on the form which removes them from an edited version of the register that is sold to marketers. Around 40% of voters now opt out.

The report's authors, however, believe this is an insufficient safeguard.

"We feel that selling the edited register sends a particularly poor message to the public that personal information collected for something as vital as participation in the democratic process can be sold to anyone for any purpose."

The DMA, on the other hand argues the register is an "essential tool" that allows its members to ensure information is accurate and that consumers can be correctly targeted.

Declares spokeswoman Caroline Roberts: "Everyone agrees that direct mail should be correctly targeted and access to the edited electoral register is an efficient way of verifying data to do just that."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff