Acute sensitivity at the Royal Mail over public outrage about the “junk mail” it distributes has been exposed by the freedom of information act (FOIA).
  The Royal Mail refused to disclose, in response to a FOIA request, how many people have made a request to stop receiving unaddressed junk mail. It also refused to disclose data on new “opt-out” requests broken down month by month for the past two years.
  But the Royal Mail has made itself look foolish because the mailing preference service willingly disclosed the same data for addressed junk mail.
  The Royal Mail said: “We do hold information on the number of initial enquiries received relating to the opt-out. However, we consider this information commercially sensitive.”
  “The market for unaddressed, door-to-door mail is highly competitive. Disclosing this information would reveal to our competitors valuable information on the numbers or possible trends involved.
  “While there is public interest in Royal Mail offer-ing the opt-out, we believe there is limited public interest in the actual number of people requesting the opt-out.
  “At the same time, there is strong public interest in maintaining Royal Mail’s ability to compete effectively in an open market and on a level playing field with its competitors, and on balance the public interest in this case is therefore best served by withholding the information.”
  But data released by the mailing preference ser-vice shows that 3.2 million people in the UK have registered to stop receiving addressed junk mail, a figure that has quadrupled since 2002.
  The data also shows that the furore over the suspension in August of a postman, Roger Annies, for telling people how to opt out of receiving junk mail, triggered an even greater revolt by people around Britain. Annies had delivered his own leaflet providing details on the Royal Mail opt-out scheme, which covers unaddressed junk mail.
  He was stripped of his round and given a job in a sorting office on the same pay.
  August saw the biggest monthly surge in regis-trations with the mailing preference service in at least the past four years, increasing by more than 130,000, with a further 103,000 in September.
  Royal Mail, which delivers a quarter of Britain's unaddressed junk mail, says it does so because the work is lucrative.
  Anyone wanting to opt out of receiving unadd-ressed mail can telephone 0845 7950950 for the relevant form, or write to Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Outs, Royal Mail, Kingsmead, House, Oxpens Road, Oxford, OX1 1RX.
  And anyone wanting to opt out of receiving add-ressed junk mail should contact the mailing preference service on 0845 7034599 or visit www.mpsonline.org.uk
Another version of this article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

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Royal Mail’s bid for ‘junk mail’ data secrecy fails
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