November 11, 2015

Information Commissioner warns against Fundraising Preference Service

Charities must be completely clear of their obligations under privacy and communications laws, the Information Commissioner has said.

Christopher Graham told MPs that he had previously had to write to several charitable organisations to remind them not to buy or share donors’ details and respect the rules of the Telephone Preference Service.

He was also concerned that when he arranged a meeting with major charities and the Institute of Fundraising, that some of the representatives believed the third sector had room for manoeuvre.

“I had to explain, sometimes in blunt terms, to leading charities that ‘I'm sorry, there isn't a trade-off here, this is the law and you've got to stick to it’,” he told the Commons’ Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

However, Mr Graham believes that awareness is improving and has also spoken against proposals to introduce a specific Fundraising Preference Service.

The idea was suggested in a review conducted by Sir Stuart Etherington and would allow people to opt out of all telephone and mail fundraising.

“A mechanism should exist whereby a person can quickly and easily exempt themselves from being contacted,” the review concluded earlier this year.

The Information Commission fears the service would create further complications and may be difficult to police.

“The Telephone Preference Service is something I can enforce under the privacy and electronic communications regulations, but I’m worried that the Fundraising Preference Service is something I wouldn’t have any status to enforce, and it I think it might lead to greater confusion when we actually need clarity,” Mr Graham added.

For advice on charitable trusts, governance and compliance please contact Deanna Hurst.

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