The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses third class mail, commonly referred to as “junk mail”. If you do not like receiving junk mail, simply throw it in the garbage or mark it “refused” and return it to the post office. This will eliminate the immediate problem although it will not prevent future deliveries.
You will receive junk mail that is not addressed to you or is addressed to you. There is very little that can be done to stop the delivery of the mail that is not addressed to you. Once the sender has paid the proper postage and deposited the items with the post office, the post office must deliver it unless it has a valid reason not to deliver it. Even if you post a sign on your home asking the postal carrier not to deliver the mail, the post office must fulfill their responsibility and deliver the mail.
Junk mail that is addressed to you comes from companies who purchased a mailing list with your name on it. Mailing lists are purchased by companies from magazines or mail order houses looking for new customers. If you would like the company to stop sending it to you, write to the company and ask them not to send you any more advertising. If the company sending you junk mail is a member of the Canadian Marketing Association, you can write to the Association at 1 Concord Gate, #607 Don Mills, Ontario M3C 3N6 and ask that their member remove your name and address from their mailing lists. Although, there is no legal requirement that the company do so, they will often comply with such a request.
Chain letters are also considered junk mail and are difficult to detect. They come in sealed covers and give no indication of what is inside. Chain letters contain a promise that you will receive more letters or items if you follow the instructions in the letter. Chain letters are not illegal unless they contain a threat, attempt to defraud the public, or promote an unauthorized lottery. You should report chain letters that contain a threat, an unauthorized game of chance for financial gain or if there is an attempt to defraud the public. Penalties for sending illegal chain letters can range from imprisonment for up to 1 year or in refusal of the post office to deliver mail from or to the guilty party.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.