'Drop the phone charges'

Graham Rivers, chief executive of SMS provider Win, is challenging the big mobile operators to stop charging charities for text donations. He tells Hannah Jordan why he is not holding his breath

Graham Rivers
Graham Rivers

Graham Rivers is hoping that the big mobile phone operators are going to follow his example and drop charges on text donations to charities - but he isn't holding his breath.

He says companies such as Orange and O2 have a responsibility to help charities by providing these services for nothing.

"But they'll claim they can't possibly drop their charges because they will incur massive costs," he says.

Rivers is chief executive of Win, a company providing services that enable charities to receive donations by text message. It has recently decided to do away with its commission fees.

His feeling that the big providers will not follow suit is based on his long experience in the telecoms industry as a former employee of operators such as Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile.

He says he has had a bee in his bonnet for several years about getting rid of the charges - usually about 30p on a £1.50 donation.

"The roots of it go back to my T-Mobile days, when Comic Relief embarrassed the network operators into passing over the full amount of donations that were being made through mobile phones," he says.

"It was absolutely the right thing to do, but it was a battle to get it from the operators." Once one gave in, it was like a dam breaking, he says - and that's what he hopes will happen now.

Since then, various operators have waived charges for certain one-off appeals, but Rivers says this is not fair on other charitable organisations. "Charities get treated like political parties: operators have a favoured charity they will drop charges for," he says. "But why should that be the case? It's charity, not politics, so they should all be treated equally."

Dropping the charges could also improve public perception of the mobile phone industry, he says: "Doing this will bring back consumer confidence in the broader market. If companies want to step up to the mark in terms of corporate social responsibility, this is a good opportunity and will perhaps start a ball rolling.

"I hope they will step up and do this, because if they just refuse, nothing will change - and that would be ridiculous."

The removal of VAT on text donations would not by itself be enough to persuade more charity supporters to donate by text, he adds.

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