The campaign urging consumers to ensure they register to vote in next month’s General Election has sparked a new row over councils selling the edited Electoral Register to marketing firms.
The activity, devised by 23red for the Electoral Commission, is running on the likes of MoneySavingExpert.com and Confused.com, as well as online dating site MySingleFriend.com and specifically targets home-movers and lonely hearts.
However, the move has been used as an excuse for privacy group Big Brother Watch to step up its offensive against the use of the edited ER. To back up its campaign, it is flagging up a two-year-old report showing that 307 councils sold their registers to 2,700 individuals and companies over the past five years, receiving more than £250,000.
Big Brother Watch director Emma Carr said: “The edited Register is a pointless waste of council time, undermines trust in the electoral system and contributes to huge volumes of junk mail. It should be abolished.”
The DM industry’s reliance on the edited ER has waned since its height in the Eighties and Nineties, but many businesses – including charities – still rely on the 28 million-strong file to identify and access customers, as well as verify addresses.
Last summer, council bosses were branded “town hall dunces” after they reaffirmed their claim that the abolition of the edited ER would “spare millions from being bombarded with junk mail”.
The Local Government Association has also been a long-term critic of the practice. Back in 2008, an LGA survey found that almost 9 in 10 electoral officers believed selling the edited ER actually discouraged people from registering to vote.
But at the time, one industry source told DecisionMarketing: “This lot must be a bunch of town hall dunces. They claim ‘junk mail’ will be cut by scrapping the edited ER, where in fact the opposite is true. There will be more poorly addressed and targeted mailings because companies will not be able to verify their data. It won’t ‘spare millions from being bombarded with junk mail’; it will lead to even more.”
Vote blitz woos singles and movers
‘Town hall dunces’ want ER scrapped
Group calls for end to ER data sale
U-turn over plan to scrap edited ER
Lords urged to rethink ER abolition
ER ban sparks junk mail warning