Removing the Edited Electoral Roll is junk

By Mark Roy, one of the founding member of the Suppression Providers Alliance and chairman of the DMA Data Council

With the Government proposing to remove the Edited Electoral Roll (EER) altogether, what you should be doing in the lead up to its removal and beyond? The first thing I’d like to say is that the removal of the EER won’t achieve the desired objective of consumers receiving less “junk mail”.

Without wanting to sound conceited, the opposite is bound to happen and the wily smoke-screen about electoral freedom does nothing to enhance the already tarnished image of our parliamentarians – or the DM industry for that matter. Fortunately for most of us in the industry, the Edited Electoral Roll represents only a small part of what has become a highly sophisticated processing machine.

Yet that small part is by no means insignificant to those that still use the EER. It is after all the largest and most cost-effective way of identifying the mailing universe in the UK and nothing comes close to it.

What seems to have eluded the Government is that the Electoral Roll is already remarkably well protected and what you can and cannot do with it is unmistakably clear. Let’s not forget that every consumer in the UK gets the chance to choose whether or not they want to be on the edited version. This is with the exception of consumers who live in local authority areas where the option to opt-out is pre-ticked, of course. These people get no choice at all!

While most of us would agree that anyone using the Electoral Roll as a method of targeting consumers should stop, what concerns me most is the impact the removal of the EER will have on data quality. Many data cleansing products and services available in the marketplace rely on ER data – for some it’s their raison d’être.

Considering the enormous headway made by the industry in terms of reducing the amount of waste that it produces each year – which can largely be attributed to data suppression products and services – undermining the tools of the trade could be highly detrimental to both consumers and businesses alike. 

That said, the vast majority of SPA members working within data suppression pre-empted the proposed removal of the EER and tackled any underlying reliance they had on it early on.  And so, although the removal of the roll may not be such a bad thing for suppression providers in the long run (we’ll adapt because we have to), I remain opposed to it. We need to be enhancing our reputation with consumers to ensure our relationship with them is productive, respectful and, above all, long-lived. 

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