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Katie Couric talks Junk Mail

Before Katie left the CBS News, she recorded this 1 minute "Journal" entry about Catalog Choice and her thoughts on unwanted mail. Click the image to go to the video and see what she has to say.


NBC Revisits Catalog Choice

Liz Crenshaw, with NBC, discovered Catalog Choice in June 2010. At the time, she was getting about 34 catalogs per month. She started diligently setting aside catalogs and opting out of them at She reported the results in November:

Since June 2010, she's made a total of 201 opt-outs on Last week, Liz reported an updated on her progress:


How many catalogs does she now receive? She reports, "almost no catalogs. none." That's 8 trees she's saved alone!

Way to go Liz and thanks for telling your story.


Privacy Expectation Gap

Understanding and informing consumer and company expectations as it relates to the use of consumer personally identifiable information and purchase patterns is a key part of our educational focus. Since we work with consumers and companies, we can gather and communicate this information to consumers and industry alike.

In a recent survey of Catalog Choice consumer and company members, we found that there is a major “disconnect” between what consumers expect happens when they buy online and what companies think consumers expect.

We asked both groups the same question:

If someone makes a purchase online from a website, regardless of the way they might like their personal information handled, what are their expectations regarding the company practices for email, direct mail, third party sharing and website recommendations. The chart below shows the consumer expectations as well as what companies think consumers expect. The gap in the percentage of agree and disagree between companies and consumers is dramatic.  Companies should consider closing the expectation gap by treating personal information with more care.


The credible self-regulatory scheme: a checklist

The following checklist for a credible self-regulatory scheme was published by the National Consumer Council (now part of Consumer Focus).  In our continued efforts to make our consumer preference program work from the industry's perspective, it is useful for businesses to read the checklist to understand why working with Catalog Choice is a vote for a credible self-regulatory program.

1. The scheme must be able to command public confidence.

2. There must be strong external consultation and involvement with all relevant stakeholders in the design and operation of the scheme.

3. As far as practicable, the operation and control of the scheme should be separate from the institutions of the industry.

4. Consumer, public interest and other independent representatives must be fully represented (if possible, up to 75 per cent or more) on the governing bodies of self-regulatory schemes.

5. The scheme must be based on clear and intelligible statements of principle and measurable standards – usually in a Code – which address real consumer concerns. The objectives must be rooted in the reasons for intervention (outlined in chapter 1.)

6. The rules should identify the intended outcomes.

7. There must be clear, accessible and well-publicised complaints procedures where breachof the code is alleged.

8. There must be adequate, meaningful and commercially significant sanctions for non-observance.

9. Compliance must be monitored (for example through complaints, research and compliance letters from chief executives).

10. Performance indicators must be developed, implemented and published to measure the scheme’s effectiveness.

11. There must be a degree of public accountability, such as an Annual Report.

12. The scheme must be well publicised, with maximum education and information directed at consumers and traders.

13. The scheme must have adequate resources and be funded in such a way that the objectives are not compromised.

14. Independence is vital in any redress scheme which includes the resolution of disputes between traders and consumers.

15. The scheme must be regularly reviewed and updated in the light of changing circumstances and expectations.


What is this "unlisting service," anyhow?

We recently completed a survey that suggested that 27% of our users do not understand the difference between the free service Catalog Choice offers and our "unlisting service" or "premium service," which requires a $20 annual donation. So let's clear it up.

  • The Free Service: we provide a free way to communicate with companies sending you direct mail directly (ex: Victoria's Secret)


  • The Unlisting/Premium Service: we get your name taken off marketing lists that are traded by data brokers (ex: Epsilon)


Ultimately, both services help you stop junk mail. You can opt out with each company directly, but if your name is on data brokers' marketing lists -regardless of how they got there- you will soon find yourself receiving mail from companies perhaps you've never done business with. Alternatively, you can opt out of the data brokers' marketing lists, but that just stops your information from getting to more companies in the future. The companies that you already have a relationship with won't stop mailing you.

In summary, the free service and the unlisting service, either used individually, is a good start to stopping junk mail. But the most effective strategy is to use both.

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