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Do Not Mail — A New Problem for Mailers

May 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
AT FIRST, the notion that states might consider adopting “Do Not Mail” legislation, which would mimic the infamous “Do Not Call” registry established in 2003, seemed more than a bit ridiculous. After all, getting advertising mail is hardly the equivalent of being interrupted by a phone call at dinner time and enduring a solicitor who wants to offer you a lower credit card interest rate via a balance transfer.

The beauty of direct mail solicitations is that they allow you to sift through advertisements on your terms—not during dinner, or your favorite television show, or when coming out of the shower, dripping water everywhere. But there are those who feel that direct mail advertising is not so much intrusive as it is a danger to the environment and an identity theft risk, which thus needs to be stopped.

We’re not making this stuff up, folks. According to the PIA/GATF Government Affairs department, “Do Not Mail” (DNM) legislation has been introduced in 14 states. In at least four of the states, bills have either been withdrawn or tabled, and none have moved to committee or have been brought to floor votes. In 2006, legislation was introduced in only four states.

Special interest groups are behind these legislative nightmares. The prospect of mail clogging up community landfills doesn’t appear realistic. The Mail Moves America coalition, citing statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, notes that direct mail accounts for just 2.2 percent (in weight) of the total municipal solid waste generated annually in the United States. Moreover, a record 51.5 percent of paper consumed in 2005 was recovered for recycling, the coalition says.

The notion that receiving credit card offers through the mail could put the recipient at risk for theft doesn’t hold water, either. Jim Andersen, president and CEO of Chanhassen, MN-based IWCO Direct, notes that while these legislative efforts are helping to build awareness about the value of mail and the urgent need for the industry to focus on address hygiene, he feels the efforts to link DNM legislation with helping to protect consumers from identity theft is misguided.

Identity Theft Risk?

“Identity theft can happen anywhere there’s data if appropriate protections are not in place,” Andersen says. “There is a far greater risk of your identity being compromised because someone took your credit card statement from your mailbox or grabbed your account number from a restaurant or retail transaction than from someone taking a credit card solicitation out of your mailbox.”
 

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