OLR Research Report

July 14, 2008




By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a discussion of the feasibility of establishing a junk mail opt-out registry similar to the state's “Do Not Call Registry.” A fact sheet prepared by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, available at, describes a wide range of steps people can take to reduce the volume of unsolicited mail they receive.


Several bills have been introduced in Connecticut, most recently in 2007, to allow people to enroll in a do-not-mail registry and to prohibit firms from sending unsolicited mail to them. In 2008, 12 other states had similar proposals. To date, no state has established such a registry.

The feasibility of such a registry would depend on the demands it would place on the agency administering it. These demands would be affected by scope of the registry, e.g., whether there would be a provision allowing mailings from firms that had a prior business relationship with the registrant. Other factors that could affect the feasibility of a registry include whether the implementing agency could contract with a third party to administer the program and how the prohibition on sending mail to registrants would be enforced. Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) staff have raised questions about how the program would be enforced with regard to out-of-state mailers. In addition, businesses that would have been the subject of proposed registries in other states have raised several constitutional objections to such programs.

Cost would also affect feasibility. But because there are currently no do-not-mail registries, it is not possible to estimate the cost of establishing and maintaining one. The cost would depend in large part on the number of people who enroll in the registry and who file complaints with the administering agency.


There have been a number of proposals in Connecticut and other states to establish registries for people who want to avoid being sent unsolicited business mail. In 1990, sHB 5812 would have required firms that mailed unsolicited material for business purposes to include an insert that the recipient could return to have his or her address removed from the firm's mailing list. Upon receipt of the insert the firm would have been prohibited from mailing any publication to that address for one year. Firms that mailed fewer than 5,000 items a year and publications that were mailed less than once per year, would have been exempt from these requirements. The bill was favorably reported by the Environment Committee, but the House took no action on it. In 1991, the Environment Committee favorably reported a similar bill that would have required firms to provide the insert or have a toll-free number for this purpose. The bill was defeated in the House. In 2007, SB 1004 would have created a “No Junk Mail Registry.” The bill was referred to the General Law Committee, which heard it but took no further action. Only one person spoke at the hearing, a rural letter carrier who raised concerns that the bill could reduce the volume of mail and thus affect her livelihood.

This year, 12 states had proposals to establish registries or other mechanisms to reduce the amount of unsolicited business mail. A Direct Marketing Association (DMA) website,, has more information about these proposals, none of which has passed to date.


The feasibility of a state do-not-mail registry would depend on its scope and how it was administered. For example, the program could ban all unsolicited commercial mailings to people who enroll in the registry, or could provide exceptions for mailings from companies with whom the registrant had previously done business within a specified period of time. The legislation establishing the program could also determine whether the program applied to mailings from nonprofit organizations or political candidates.

Among the other factors that could affect the program's feasibility are:

1. whether the implementing agency could contract with a third party to administer the program, which could reduce the burdens on the agency;

2. how people could enroll in the registry (e.g., by mail, phone, internet, etc.);

3. the number of people who would enroll in the registry and file complaints regarding unsolicited mail;

4. whether enrollment would be permanent or need to be periodically renewed; and

5. how the program's prohibitions would be enforced (civil penalties, making violations an unfair trade practice, or giving aggrieved registrant a right to sue).

One issue raised by DCP staff is how the program would be administered with regard to out-of-state mailers. It is unclear how these firms would become aware of the registry, and how the department (or other agency charged with administering the program) would enforce a prohibition on these firms sending unsolicited mail to individuals on the registry.

Businesses that would have been the subject of proposed registries in other states have raised several constitutional objections to such a program. The DMA has asserted that since the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to establish a postal system, the federal government has sole jurisdiction over the mail. Other opponents of such registries have asserted that they would impinge on mailers First Amendment rights. Since no registries have been established to date, there is no case law directly on point.

The feasibility of establishing a do-not-mail mail registry program would also depend in part on the program's cost. As noted above, no state has a do-not-mail registry and therefore it is not possible to determine the costs of establishing and maintaining one. Presumably, there would be costs associated with (1) establishing and maintaining the registry, (2) publicizing the registry and the complaint process, (3) processing and investigating complaints, and (4) enforcing the law in case of violations. DCP believes that it would incur substantial personnel and other costs if it were charged with establishing and administering a “Do Not Mail” Registry.”

On the other hand, as described in OLR report 2002-R-1014, DCP incurred relatively minor costs in establishing the Do Not Call Registry. As noted in that memo, DCP contracted with the DMA to manage the registry and to distribute it quarterly to the vendors, who were charged for this service. The Federal Trade Commission subsequently began a National Do Not Call Registry in 2003. To avoid duplication of resources, Connecticut's registry and all of its registered phone numbers were shared with the national registry starting that year.