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Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 4 July 2011 16:56 UK
Responses to Panorama - Why Hate Junk Mail?

Royal Mail, Spring Global Mail and the Communications Workers Union issued the following statements in response to Panorama: Why Hate Junk Mail?

Royal Mail:

Scam Mail

Royal Mail is determined to do all it can to root out scam mail. We very much understand the upset and disquiet that scam mail can cause households across the country, including vulnerable people.

We do not want our postmen or women handling or delivering mail that causes harm. We have made significant progress in our efforts to root out scam mail as we intensify our drive against it.

As was announced in January 2011, Royal Mail is working very closely, through Operation Sterling, with the Metropolitan Police and Serious Organised Crime Agency to identify and stop scam mail at source. At the time the initiative was announced, the Metropolitan Police said: "We hope to send a warning to the perpetrators, that their actions will not go unhindered. Working with Royal Mail, Spring Global Mail and other members of the postal industry, we aim to clamp down on this crime and make it as hard as possible for the people responsible for it to operate. We would like to thank Royal Mail and Spring Global Mail for working with us to take this important step in the continuing fight against mass marketing fraud."

We can reveal for the first time that our work with the Metropolitan Police has resulted in almost six million scam letters being removed from the UK mail delivery network. As a result of our close co-operation, the police provided us with the information which enabled us to cancel six bulk mail contracts with foreign companies based in Austria, Australia, Canada and South Africa. In one case, mail has been seized by the police as part of a criminal investigation.

We are currently working with the Metropolitan Police on leads involving a further 10 million potential scam letters. If this turns out to be scam mail harmful to the recipients, we will stop it, irrespective of the cost and loss of revenue to Royal Mail. This significant action is in addition to 11 bulk mail contracts that we have cancelled after we acted on complaints received by the Advertising Standards Agency about the content of mailings. Royal Mail has also signed an information sharing protocol with the Office of Fair Trading which has resulted in three bulk mail contracts being cancelled.

There is open access to the mail system and under the Universal Service Obligation, Royal Mail provides a delivery service to the UK's 29 million addresses. We are doing everything we can to stop scam mail entering our postal network.

Royal Mail works closely with Spring Global Mail, in which it has a 33% share, to prevent scam mail entering the Royal Mail system. Like Spring Global Mail, we believe targeting the senders of the mail, with evidence passed to us by the police, and raising awareness with the general public are effective ways to tackle this problem. Spring Global Mail is one of many international mail companies in Europe providing services to companies which want to send mail from one country to another. Spring Global Mail collects, sorts and transports mail to over 200 destinations worldwide.

At the launch of Operation Sterling in January, Marilyn Baldwin, of the Think Jessica Campaign to raise awareness about scam mail, said: "I am thrilled that Royal Mail, Spring Global Mail and the Metropolitan Police are working together. I think we have turned a corner and along with our future awareness campaigns we are now on the right road to protecting our most vulnerable and deterring those who prey on them."

Royal Mail also provides advice to customers warning about scam mail on its website and a link to the website of Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre.

Direct Mail

We do not recognise the term "junk mail". Companies promote their products and services in different ways, including through TV and newspaper advertising, outdoor posters, the internet and the post. Companies use direct mail because it has proven results. Direct mail accounts for more than £16 billion in sales for the UK economy every year and the industry employs 280,000 people directly and indirectly.

Many households find the information useful. If they do not do so, there are many established ways of stopping it. These include signing up to the Mailing Preference Service or Royal Mail's Door to Door Opt Out scheme for unaddressed mail or contacting companies that have sent mail asking to be taken off their database.

Since 2003, the volume of direct mail being sent to landfill every year has fallen by 80%. Direct mail now accounts for just 0.4% of the average household waste, a tiny fraction of all paper and card that goes to landfill.

The direct marketing industry is making great strides to reduce the environmental impact of its activities. Last year it was announced that 76.5 per cent of direct marketing material is now recycled - well ahead of the 2009 target of 55 per cent set in agreement with Defra and beating the 2013 target of 70 per cent.

Spring Global Mail:

We take the problem of scam mail very seriously and believe that targeting the senders of the mail and raising awareness with the general public are the best ways to resolve any issues.

Targeting the senders - Spring have worked with the Metropolitan Police and Royal Mail to get an estimated 6 million items of scam mail out of the system. We have done this by assisting the Met Police, as part of Operation Sterling, to seize a consignment of mail in January 2011. This has lead to a criminal investigation. In addition we have cancelled a further 6 customer contracts, with more to follow, that will see the amount of scam mail removed rise to an estimated total of 16 million items per year. But to put this into context this only represents 3% of our total revenue and we are committed to removing all scam mail volumes from the UK.

Raising awareness - Spring are involved in the "Silence of the Scams" national awareness campaign and we are a sponsor of the "Think Jessica" website.

Other actions - Spring have been working with the ASA and OFT for around 10 years, including the signing of an information sharing protocol.

No other international mail service provider has taken these steps.

"Local Look" - is a recognised international marketing activity to prepare mail with a foreign postal indicia. This happens across the world and not just in the UK. The vast majority of companies using such a service are legitimate businesses that are looking to reduce costs and improve response rates.

We allow our customers to use Spring's UK address only as a return address when they have no UK address of their own. This is to enable undeliverable or response items to be returned to the sender. It does not mean that the mail originates from this address or that the staff in Spring's UK office are responsible for it.

Many other postal companies also provide this service - no other postal companies are working with the authorities to help stamp out scam mail.

Communication Workers Union:

Scam mail is a horrible way of conning money out of vulnerable people, in the same way that scam e-mails asking for bank details and hoax phone calls soliciting personal information are. We completely condemn the practise and support Royal Mail's work with the Metropolitan Police to identify and eradicate it and bring the criminals involved to justice. We would like to see all postal operators doing more to tackle this problem.

Postal workers do not want to be inadvertently delivering this poisonous material. From an operational end it is very difficult to tell the difference between scam mail and legitimate bills, statements or other business mail because the plain envelopes give little away and the integrity of the mail obviously prevents postal workers from opening envelopes. It would be wrong to blame postal workers or associate them with criminals when they are simply doing their job.

On the subject of business mail generally, we recognise the significant financial boost this brings to all companies in the mail market.

Business, advertising and marketing material is an important revenue stream and if it were not delivered by Royal Mail it would be delivered by another company. We're pleased that companies choose to use Royal Mail, which has the best delivery network in the country, for their distribution.



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