MPs on both sides of the House of Commons are stepping up their campaign to use the committee stage of the Digital Rights Bill to turn the £15bn DM sector into a public pariah, with one even claiming that “people the length and breadth of this country are sick and fed up of direct marketing”.
Labour MP Graham Jones is no stranger to attacking the industry, having previously described the amount of direct mail consumers receive as “outrageous”, but he certainly has the bit between his teeth now, insisting that the “mounds of unwanted direct mail” behind people’s doors constitutes “a fire hazard”.
That he was speaking at the committee stage of a Bill, which in itself does not cover direct mail, did not seem to prevent him firing off both barrels.
In response to a proposed amendment to switch the term “direct marketing” for “any form of marketing, including direct marketing, or customer engagement”, Jones simply could not restrain himself.
He said: “People the length and breadth of this country are sick and fed up of direct marketing. They are sick and fed up of the back of their doors having a mound of unwanted mail that they have to dispose of, which has come from companies that they have no interest in. I have a high number of empty properties – 2,500 – in my area, and in some cases this goes beyond being a nuisance and an aggravation, and becomes a fire hazard. We have mounds of direct mail behind the door, and it is never-ending and never stops.”
Ironically, Jones recently tweeted “Royal Mail service going backwards. About time bosses were carpeted, services improved and staff looked after.” Whether his opinions about direct mail would go down so well with posties, is another matter, as it is well-documented that commercial mail shores up the whole postal service.
Still, email marketing is also in the firing line. Jones added: “People receive not only physical mail but email. Businesses the length and breadth of Britain – I have made the point that this is not a business-friendly Bill and it should be, as it is a Digital Economy Bill – are sick and fed up of their email boxes being stuffed full of unwanted emails, which are costing them a fortune as they have to put someone on them to go through them. It has got to stop. We have to act as a Parliament, and the Government have got to sit up and take notice. How much is this costing British businesses? How much is it aggravating UK citizens?
“These companies seem to get away with it. There is a free-for-all at the minute. There is no way anyone can tell me that a mound of mail does not come through my letterbox weekly or there is not a long sequence of unwanted emails in my inbox, and no one can tell me that companies in my constituency and every other constituency do not face huge costs.”
To which Conservative MP Mark Menzies – who recently insisted the industry was run by shysters – wade in: “This is a blight for all our constituents, regardless of which side of the House we sit on.”
Although the amendment was passed, the MPs had to be reminded that they were discussing the Digital Rights Bill, which covers electronic communications only. However, they were slightly appeased to be told that, as part of this process, the Information Commissioner’s Office would also be drawing up a new code of practice for direct marketing, including direct mail.
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