Door-to-door collection firms 'must be clear they are commercial'

New guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice says householders must be made aware that some of the profits from what they give will go to a company rather than to charity

Private companies that operate charitable house-to-house donated goods collection services must make the nature of their business clear to prospective donors, the body that sets advertising standards has warned.

In new guidance issued today, the Committee of Advertising Practice says such companies must explain that they are commercial enterprises and it might be that a proportion of the profits from the sale of donated goods goes to charity, rather than the donations themselves.

The guidance comes after CAP reviewed potentially misleading advertising practices by private door-to-door collection companies and in the wake of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling last year that said the company Recycle Proline had not made the commercial nature of its business sufficiently clear.

The CAP review also found that companies were giving householders the misleading impression they were donating directly to charities, failing to provide their company names or commercial statuses on the front of collection bags or giving undue prominence to charities’ names and registration numbers on the collection bags.

The guidance says: "The ruling indicates that advertisers should communicate their name and company status on both sides of the bag.

"In addition to this, if the bag features a charity’s name, it must not be given greater prominence than the name of the company undertaking the collection. In practice, this means that the company name must be of equal or greater prominence compared to the charity name."

The guidance includes examples of wording on bags and accompanying literature that would be acceptable, and wording or layouts that could be viewed as misleading.

In a statement, CAP said the guidance was deliberately focused on legitimate collection businesses, rather than "fly-by-night or bogus operators who masquerade as charities but who are, in fact, engaged in criminal activity", which it said were best tackled by law-enforcement bodies.

Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, said: "No one should feel duped into thinking they are donating directly to a charity if that’s not the case.

"Appeals to consumers’ generosity can benefit a range of good causes, but it’s only fair that these companies are truthful and transparent about the commercial nature of the services they provide. 

"Our guidance sets out clearly how commercial collection companies can stick to the rules, which will help to build consumer trust and, ultimately, benefit charities."

Collection bags must be brought in line with the new guidance by 2 June, CAP said.

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