Advice: How to put a stop to junk mail

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: My mother is 85 and she lives alone, she is being bombard with junk mail. This is causing her distress and anxiety. What can I do?

A: Receiving mail that you don’t want can be irritating, inconvenient and, in extreme cases, intimidating. Unwanted mail can also cause a great deal of distress.

Register with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) which will stop most unwanted advertising material that is addressed to you personally and delivered to your home address by post.

Any advertising or information from companies or charities that you’ve already asked to receive will continue to be delivered. You can only stop this kind of mail by contacting the organisation directly.

Registering with the MPS will not stop you from receiving un-addressed leaflets, mail addressed to ‘the occupier’ or free newspapers.

Address is: Mail Preference Service, FREEPOST 29 LON20771, LONDON, W1E 0ZT. MPS Registration Line: 0845 703 4599; email:; website:

You can also opt out of being on the edited electoral register. When you fill out the annual electoral registration form you can choose for your details not to be added to the edited electoral register. This list can be bought by any person or company and may be used for any purpose – including sending unwanted mail.

You can check whether you have opted out, or decide to opt out at any time of year by contacting your local electoral office.

Tick or untick the box: Your mother may have given her name and address to a company, for instance when buying a product or service. If you don’t want any further information about ‘other products and services’ you should look in the small print and tick the box to say no. Some companies ask you to untick the box instead. Be careful to always make sure you are selecting the right option.

Return to sender: If you receive unwanted mail with a return address on the envelope you can write ‘unsolicited mail, please return to sender’ on the envelope and put it back in the post unstamped.

The sender will have to pay the return postage and might remove your details from its mailing lists. Most companies will understand that there is no point in continuing sending further advertisements and leave you alone.

Contact the sender: Under the Data Protection Act 1998, any organisation has to stop using your personal information for direct marketing purposes if you ask them to do so.

This is a very effective way of stopping unwanted mail as they can’t refuse to take your name, address and any other personal information off their mailing list.To do this, you must contact the organisation directly. Make sure you:

- put the notice in writing (this can be an email)

- make it clear that you are asking the organisation to ‘stop (or not to begin) processing your personal data for direct marketing purposes in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998’

- put the date on your notice and give the organisation your full name and address

- include a reasonable date from which you want the organisation to stop processing your personal data (usually a period of 28 days)

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice, log on to or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day 028 90852271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm). Email advice is available on