Who'll Stop the Mail?
January 15, 2017 2:34 PM   Subscribe

My mortgage company is sending me offers (via snail mail) to refinance my loan once a week. I have repeatedly called, emailed, and written asking them to stop yet they do not. What recourse do I have?

My mortgage was sold to another company a few years ago. For years, everything was nice and quiet. Every month my bank automatically sent them a payment and I never had any interaction with them.

Then, back in May last year I started to get both snail mail and email offers from them weekly about refinance offers. The opt-out form on the email versions didn't work at first (broken link) and I really hate getting paper mail of any sort, so I called them and asked to opt out of both forms. The rep I spoke to was prompt and friendly and said it would be taken care of.

Flash forward a few months and nothing stopped. I have repeatedly called and emailed. I have been unerringly polite but direct in what I want. Eventually, the emails stopped but the paper mail continues to arrive to this day. To date, I have 4 official letters from their "customer care" office (one of which they sent via registered mail, which I had to pick up at the post office - I think they were trolling me) assuring me that I would be removed from their marketing lists. I even discovered the names and email addresses of some of their executives, who I have included on communications. And yet, and yet....

Do I have any recourse here? The FTC web site seems pretty focused on stopping email marketing and unwanted materials from direct mail outfits; I can't find much about what to do if a company that I do business with keeps sending me things in the mail that I don't want. Most everything else I have found is similar: how to stop spam and how to opt-out of direct mail.
posted by majorsteel to Law & Government (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The final word in stopping postal mail is the USPS Prohibitory Order Form 1500, which was originally designed to cope with erotic and other adult materials in the mail. Due to the way Congress wrote the law (39 USC 3008), and as confirmed by a Supreme Court decision, you are free to use the 1500 against virtually any postal sender advertising things at you, because the law offers the recipient "unreviewable discretion" to determine what is erotic or arousing.

Your local postal clerk might object the first time you try to apply it to something that doesn't seem to fit the documentation, at which point you either ask to talk to the local postmaster, or refer them to Postal Bulletin 21977 (7-30-98), which clearly states that postmasters may not refuse to accept a 1500 because an advertisement does not appear to be sexually oriented.

Repeat violations of a prohibitory order can result in the revocation of bulk mailing privileges, investigation by the postal inspector, etc.
posted by jgreco at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2017 [85 favorites]

Collect all the mail, take it to their office, dump it on someone's desk and say "please help me make this stop immediately."

Threaten to refi with another bank.
posted by erst at 3:09 PM on January 15, 2017

Do they enclose return envelopes that are barcoded and will pay the postage for you? Start stuffing every single one with all junk mail you can and send them your junk mail on their dime. They will get tired of paying the bill for it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:55 PM on January 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Was just going to suggestion what Michele in California did (and recommend using pennies), but then I found out that USPS doesn't allow those shenanagins anymore. :(
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 3:58 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Two options I can think of:

1. Try calling their corporate office, rather then normal customer service. this may get you to someone who has better options to make a change. Be very clear and polite and ask you you can talk to to resolve this issue.

2. Send them a request in writing via registered mail. This will often get extra attention because it is the start of a clear paper trail.
posted by nalyd at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Try getting a credit freeze with all 3 reporting bureaus.

I was getting an insane number of balance transfer checks from my bank. I tried calling, emailing, and neither worked. It was very irritating, because these are essentially blank checks that anyone could steal. Finally, I decided to implement a credit freeze for identity theft protection, and they stopped. YMMV.

If you need to apply for a new loan, apartment, credit card, etc., you will of course have to go through the process of having the freeze removed, but I think it's worth it compared to the inconvenience and potential identity theft from unwanted mailings.
posted by invisible ink at 4:22 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! As usual - MeFi'ers rule. I will try the form 1500, jgreco. I had come across that but assumed it could only be used for sexually explicit material.

I had tried an electronic version of the "print everything off and dump it on the desk" suggestion. I scanned/PDF'd everything I received from them, assembled it into a single PDF document, and sent it to their customer care address and all the executive email addresses I could find. I also closed the accompanying cover letter with something like: "I did not choose your company to do business with. Why would I choose to refinance with a company who can't even seem to manage a basic marketing program?" That was two months ago; I have received 6 offers since then.

I actually do have a credit freeze on my account, too! I also was receiving a ton of credit card offers and came across that tactic a while ago. Either this kind of offer from my own mortgage company doesn't count, or they are blatantly ignoring that.
posted by majorsteel at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

You may also look into contacting the attorney general's office in your state or the state where the mortgage company is located and file a complaint.

Or you could always threaten the company (once you get hold of someone in charge) that you will be contacting the regulated industries division at the attorney general's office and will be filing a complaint. That seems to get peoples' attention.
posted by eatcake at 5:58 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sure the USPS would very much like for you to only use the 1500 for sexually explicit material. As their "business" has evolved, they've become dependent on the bulk senders to prop up their revenue, and the continued evolution towards "electronic" communications, including e-mail for personal communications, paperless billing, and ACH bill payment means that there's a shift away from first class mail. They need bulk senders.

We're actually very lucky to have the 1500. If you look at the political environment today, it is very different, and more recent laws such as the TCPA have contained a lot more wiggle-room not in your favor. It is unlikely that 39 USC 3008 would pass in anything vaguely resembling the current form today, and if it did, it seems likely that it would actually be limited in scope.

That having been said, I have to admit that it is a bit of a heavyweight solution to fixing the postal spam, and it is only effective against individual senders, and even there you need to be able to identify them.

For a reduction in financial junk mail, I'd not heard that a credit freeze would impact that, but you can definitely opt out from offers based on your credit history by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (5 years) or returning a signed permanent request (https://www.optoutprescreen.com/). With the advent of services such as NerdWallet and Credit Karma, the usefulness of receiving "pre-screened" offers is more questionable than it used to be. Also, pay attention to the privacy notices that are sent by your banks, which will include an address that you must write to in order to opt-out of their information sharing programs.

For a reduction in overall junk mail, the only general tool I'm aware of is the DMA opt-out list, available on the Internet as https://dmachoice.thedma.org/

I realize that the latter half of this answer isn't really responsive to the original post, but the large number of favorites on my first answer suggests that there is a lot of interest in reducing junk mail. The big trick seems to be that if you really want to try to eliminate paper junk mail, you need to be willing to be aggressive about it. If a polite call or letter doesn't work, the 1500 is there.
posted by jgreco at 4:56 AM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mark them alternately "Return to Sender - Addressee deceased" and "Return to Sender - Addressee moved without forwarding address". Somebody in their office might then take your address off the mailing list.
posted by aqsakal at 1:12 PM on January 16, 2017

« Older Unlocking Sony Xperia J & Factory Restore   |   What movers (if any) will get my things cross... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.