Junk mail, calls and emails are all annoying. Yet not all of it comes from spam companies on the fringes of the law. Many are from big, legitimate operations. They often do this by using opt-in boxes, or by designing forms in such a way that we say ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’.
That’s not behaviour you would expect from the Post Office – it’s a national institution and many people wrongly see it as a part of the State rather than a commercially-run organisation. In fact, its savings arm is actually run by the Bank of Ireland.
However, while doing research, I came across this as one of the many questions on the Post Office’s online savings application form.
Post Office®, Royal Mail and our trusted partners would like to contact you about other products, services and offers that might be of interest to you.
By clicking on the continue button and submitting this form you will be indicating your consent to receiving marketing communications by post, phone and email unless you have indicated an objection to receiving such communications by ticking the relevant box(es) below.
After scan-reading it, I couldn’t easily work out whether to tick or not to tick. So I had to stop and read it slowly to work out what to do.
GIVE IT A GO YOURSELF. DO YOU FIND IT EASY TO UNDERSTAND?
So what I want to know from you, is – do you feel the same? You can answer in the comments section below.
- How easy did you find this to work out what to do?
- Do you feel this is confusing? If so, in your view, is this just poor drafting or a deliberate attempt to confuse?
From here on, I will assume you’ve already worked out what to do – if you haven’t, read it first or you can’t take a proper judgement.
In effect, what the Post Office has created is an ‘opt-out’ system, which to my eyes looks like an ‘opt-in’ system. Unless you tick the boxes, you will get the marketing.
Therefore, you’re effectively automatically signed up unless you choose not to.
Of course, an ‘opt-in’ system is favourable (we always use that here on MSE and try and make it as obvious as possible).
But if a firm is going to use an opt-out, the very least a responsible one should do is be very plain about it.
Yet here again, in my view, the Post Office fails. I suspect that were it to put ‘tick these boxes if you don’t want our marketing’ in bold above the boxes, it’d have far fewer sign-ups.
However, I’d like to see if you’re in sync with me, or you think it’s done it clearly.
Update by Martin: 20 January 2014:
I received this tweet from the Nina Arnott, the head of PR at the Post Office, a few hours after this blog was published: "@MartinSLewis thanks for highlighting this. Essential that forms like this are v clear. We’ll look into first thing tmrw @PostOfficeNews"