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Data cleaning and what you need to know about The Fax Preference Service

Ignoring the fax and mail preference service could land you a £5000 fine

The Fax Preference Service (FPS), set up by the Direct Marketing Association (UK) Limited (DMA), started off as a voluntary self-regulatory mechanism to enable consumers to opt-out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing faxes at home. Since the Data Protection Act was introduced in 1999 and the FPS was enshrined in law, it has been illegal to send unsolicited sales and marketing faxes without permission.

The FPS enables businesses to opt-out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing faxes. Once registered, a 28-day grace period is allowed, after which time any company sending an unsolicited fax risks a £5,000 fine — per fax.

In addition to this, an “individual” (defined as consumers, sole traders and, except in Scotland, partnerships) cannot be sent an unsolicited fax without prior written consent. Failure to obtain consent could also result in a £5,000 fine.

How does it affect me? When purchasing fax lists, ensure the list has just been cleaned against the FPS file. You have 28 days to use the list from the date it was cleaned, before risking a fine for phoning an opted-out number.

The legislation applies to both potential and existing clients. If you fax a customer at home you haven’t contacted for a while, and the client has now ‘opted-out’ of receiving faxes, a fine could still be imposed even though they used to be a regular client. Similarly, permission must be obtained from a non-individual before sending an unsolicited fax.

What is the Mailing Preference Service?

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) list is made up of consumers who have opted-out of receiving unsolicited mail or specify that they would like to receive certain types of mail. The scheme aims to foster good relations between direct mail users and the general public. Whilst MPS is not a legal requirement, adhering to the list removes the drain on resources and the time-consuming task of sending unsolicited mail to someone who is not going to open it.

How does it affect me?The Mailing Preference list is updated quarterly. When purchasing mailing lists, ensure the list has been cleaned against the MPS file within the last three months.

The Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File

Addresses can also be checked and corrected against Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF), which contains over 28 million addresses. The service checks for spelling mistakes, the wrong postcode or incorrect addresses and amends the errors or appends the corrected version of the address as required. This removes the cost of sending mail to incorrect addresses and having it returned plus the unprofessional image of misspelling an address.

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