The Information Commissioner’s Office has been granted new powers to fine organisations, including charities, up to £500,000 for making unwanted contact with the public.
An amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which will come into force on 25 May, has given the ICO the right for the first time to impose fines for breaches of the regulations.
The new power has been confirmed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and covers the sending of unwanted marketing emails and texts and making live or automated marketing phone calls.
A spokesman for the ICO said that all organisations had an obligation to ask people whether they wanted to be contacted in the future when first contact was made. Charities that ignored requests not to be contacted would be in breach of the regulations.
Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, welcomed the move in a statement. "The changes to the regulations will grant us the right to impose significant monetary penalties for the most serious breaches of the rules and give us improved powers to investigate companies that make nuisance marketing calls," he said.
"We will be issuing guidance to reflect the changes that are being introduced."
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, urged charities to take note of the changes because of their increasing use of texts, emails and phone calls for fundraising.
"These powers appear quite significant on the face of it," he said. "But all charities from my experience seek to meet and exceed good practice.
"This announcement should not deter charities from engaging with supporters using the various marketing channels at their disposal to raise funds for good causes."