Guide to contact verification and suppression lists

Even with the most accurate checking of contact details during sign-up, over time these will become out-of-date as your contacts may move house, change their e-mail address, or even die. In the UK there are a number of managed lists which are designed to help address this issue, each of which can be used to clean up your own contact database for a fee. A brief guide to the major UK verification and suppression lists is provided below:

1. Moving house: Around 13% of individuals in the UK move house each year. These people can be identified using the Gone Away Suppression File (GAS) or the National Suppression File (NSF). It is possible to obtain the new address for people who have moved house if they have used postal redirection: via the National Change of Address File (NCOA).

2. Deceased contacts: Mailing the deceased is both a waste of money, and a likely cause of unnecessary distress for their family. There are several files listing contacts who are believed to be deceased, including: Mortascreen; The Bereavement Register; The Deceased Register; and Halo. Halo is particularly used to help prevent identity fraud.

3. ‘National’ opt-outs: Increasing numbers of people are opting out of all direct marketing using schemes such as the Mail, Fax or Telephone Preference services (MPS, FPS & TPS). All bought-in data should be screened against these lists prior to use. It is not necessary to screen your house file against these lists as individuals on your database should have chosen in some way to be in communication with you.

4. Direct opt-outs: It is essential to make sure that no further marketing is sent after you have received an opt-out request from one of your contacts. Errors can often occur here if details are kept in more than one database or department within an organisation. This issue can be avoided by ensuring that a ‘single customer view’ is in place, using a system such as MasterVision.

5. Incorrect postal address: Non-existent postal addresses can be identified by checking against the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF). It is also possible to identify invalid UK postcodes without reference to the PAF by checking whether they are correctly structured according to the relevant specification (British Standard 7666).

6. Incorrect email address: In addition to checking whether an email address is formatted in line with the official specification (RFC-822), it is also possible to test directly whether the given domain (the part of the address after the @ symbol) is able to receive email. This provides an accurate way of predicting ‘bouncebacks’ without sending a test email.