You've got junk mail: because councils are selling your details

Wonder why you get so much junk mail and pizza flyers? Well that might be because your council has been selling your personal data to private companies – for the princely sum of £5 a pop.

junk mail

For the past five years, town halls have been making a tidy profit passing on your details to estate agencies, kebab shops and direct marketing companies. The electoral register is a public document that is free for anyone to look at. But when you register to vote, you’re automatically put on an edited version of the electoral register. If you didn’t tick the miniscule box to opt out of having your details passed on, they are sold. Then, mysteriously, you receive thousands of leaflets advertising Wario’s 2 for 1 Munchie Box Deal.

Pressure group Big Brother Watch have revealed in a report that over 300 council have sold the register to 2700 companies, netting £250,000 in total. The result is a pile of unsolicited junk, and a rather underhand violation of privacy.

The group is calling for the practice to be scrapped – and they’re supported by the Electoral Commission, who are concerned that potential voters will be put off by the sale of their personal details.

‘Registering to vote is a basic part of our democracy’ said Nick Pickles from Big Brother Watch. ‘It should not be a back door for our names and addresses to be sold to anyone and everyone. Many people don’t realise that the pizza shops and estate agents drowning their doorsteps with junk mail are able to do so because their local council is forced to sell the names of every voter who fails to tick the right box when they register to vote.’

And I thought it was just because I really love pizza.


  • Kevin
    The option to opt out is incredibly obvious when you fill the form out. Most junk mail is simply someone walking the streets and plonking stuff through your door or in the local free paper. They're not going to know that Mrs Carter next door is vegetarian so won't want the Domino's BBQ Beef pizza deal. And most other junk mail is addressed to 'The Homeowner or The Resident.
  • Mrs C.
    Mmmm... BBQ Beef...
  • jim
    bastards - i want that £5 as payment for stress due to all the crap coming through my letterbox. and the effort of having to recycle it - also shred it if its got my name on it.
  • Cheesey
    The solution is easy. Any time an organisation wants your telephone number then give your local Councils number.
  • Dick
    It is easy to recycle. You just get a prepaid envelope out of one of the pieces of junkmail, put all the junkmail in it and post it next time you go near a postbox.
  • Don D.
    Question: If I receive a letter through my door addresses to "The Homeowner" - am I legally entitled to open it? If I bin them all - am I liable for any consequences in doing so?
  • jim
    you are entitled to open it. but you are not obligated to
  • Will
    It's not like the council are taking all those fivers and then having a secret sex party with cocaine and hookers. They use it to reduce the council tax bill.
  • badger
    So what if the council fines me for putting junk mail in the wrong bin, when I wouldn't have received it if not for their selling my details? Does that make them agent provocateur, or accessory to my breaking of their law?
  • Alexis
    I actually design the forms for a lot of councils. They make it very clear what happens if you don't opt out and most of them go over the top in trying to get you to do so.

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