Post office to review junk mail service

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 October, 2009, 12:00am

Hongkong Post will complete within three months a review of an opt-out scheme that makes it easier for people to block junk mail.

The move comes after a damning investigation by the Ombudsman concluded that Hongkong Post's circular service, which distributes unsolicited mail, was 'an abuse of the postal service', which created unwanted nuisance and annoyance.

The watchdog recommended that the postmaster general, Clement Cheung Wan-ching, review the circular service and offer a practical way for people to opt out from receiving unsolicited mails. In a statement yesterday, the company said: 'Hongkong Post accepts the recommendation and will complete a review on enhancing the opt-out scheme within three months.'

The Ombudsman also issued a press release yesterday confirming it had investigated a complaint against the circular service.

Media reports said the Ombudsman's investigation report found the Mandatory Opt Out Scheme introduced by Hongkong Post in 2007 to be unrealistic, as it requires recipients to instruct each and every sender to stop sending circular mail to them. There is no sanction against noncompliance. The Ombudsman's statement read: 'The complaint concerns the Post Office regularly sending unaddressed, largely commercial, mail through its circular service, causing considerable nuisance to some recipients despite their express objection. There is no way the unwilling recipients could opt not to receive such 'junk' mail.'

The Ombudsman considers the circular service, which was introduced in 1992, 'to be biased towards providing senders with a convenient and economical means to disseminate information without due regard for recipients' wishes'. It added: 'This is tantamount to abuse of the postal service.'

Wilson Shea Kai-chuen, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said some of its members also used the service for promotions and advertising purposes.

'The service is particularly useful for those in the retail business. They introduce their products to potential customers and they can also send out coupons to lure people to buy their products,' Shea said.

He also pointed out the major reason for using the service was because postmen were the only group of people who were allowed to gain access to residential buildings.

'Nearly every residential building now has a security guard and the staff of private companies cannot get into these buildings. That is why it is like a monopoly for the post office to do this business.' But he said the cost of using the service for promotions was quite high, as each letter needed a stamp costing HK$1.40.

'I think members will continue to use the service even if the opt-out scheme is made more user-friendly, as the service really works.'