British Red Cross increases direct debit without permission

The British Red Cross has apologised to a single mother after increasing her direct debit donation against her wishes.

Laura Harrison was recruited by a door-to-door fundraiser and agreed to donate £5 a month. Four months later she was contacted by a telephone fundraiser asking her to increase the amount by £2 a month to £7 a month. She declined, but later realised that the charity had contacted her bank to increase the donation without her permission.

The story came to light after Harrison, 26, spoke to her local newspaper the Oldham Advertiser earlier this week.

The charity said that Harrison had not received letters of confirmation that the increase would take effect, apologised and offered a full and immediate refund in accordance with her rights under the Direct Debit Guarantee. However, Harrison has waived this offer and allowed the charity to keep the full funds taken from her account.

“The British Red Cross was very sorry to hear about Laura Harrison's experience,” said Jo Georgiou, supporter services manager at the British Red Cross. “The telephone fundraising call made to her home in June 2007 followed the normal procedures in place for this type of fundraising and it was not brought to our attention that there was any irregularity on this occasion.

“We believe that we take reasonable precautions to ensure that agreements made over the telephone are confirmed in writing with the opportunity to amend or cancel the agreement.”

She added: “Telephone fundraising is one of the most cost-effective ways for charities to recruit direct debit donors. The British Red Cross is a member of the Professional Fundraising Regulatory Association and all its fundraisers follow the Institute of Fundraising's code of practice.”

A Fundraising Standards Board spokeswoman said she was not in a position to comment on this case but added: “We certainly do get contacted about face-to-face and telemarketing fundraising but of course the formal complaints will go in the first instance directly to the charity concerned, where they are normally dealt with, as in this case.”

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