Britons - for the first time offered the freedom to withhold from marketers their personal information collected on the electoral roll - have opted out in their millions.

According to data published by local authorities on December 2, a quarter of the electorate (around ten millions adults) refused to allow the use of their personal data for direct marketing purposes.

The result is “a wake-up call for marketers,” according to Hays Commercial Services’ general manager Vicky Larkins, who claims that “the direct mail industry has clearly failed to persuade the general public that direct marketing is highly-targeted."

But Britain’s Direct Marketing Association takes a more sanguine view, claiming it had expected opt-outs to be as high as fifty per cent. “The problem is that the consumers who opt out will think they will stop receiving direct mail, but this isn't the case,” says DMA director of public affairs Caroline Roberts.

But the DMA is concerned at the varying wording used in leaflets accompanying the electoral roll questionnaires, fearing their phrasing by local councils may have influenced the level of opt-out from area to area. It will be reviewing these leaflets accordingly.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff