From June this year, charities and direct-marketing companies have a legal obligation to check that companies are not registered with the Telephone Preference Service, a free, opt-out register for individuals who do not want to receive unsolicited direct marketing by phone.
The service has operated on a statutory basis since 1999, and is administered by the Direct Marketing Association under Ofcom's supervision. Direct marketers are legally obliged to comply with the Telephone Preference Service and failure to comply can result in enforcement action by the office of the Information Commissioner.
The legislation is in response to small businesses' concerns that say they do not have the resources to deal with untargeted cold calls. But fundraisers say that extending the law to businesses means charities will lose the opportunity to promote events such as fun-runs to 'warm' corporate donors and previous participants.
"The law will help prevent nuisance calls, but it will also stop the calls that they want to receive," said Rob Reaks, chief executive of Personal Telephone Fundraising, a company specialising in fundraising for the not-for-profit sector. "Complying with the TPS for corporate donors could lose us up to 20 per cent of our prospects."
The Institute of Fundraising said the legislation would affect some charities more than others, and warned that interpretation and enforcement by the Information Commissioner would be crucial.
"The organisations that will be hardest-hit will be those that are least able to ensure compliance, such as small, regionally-based charities and hospices," said Andrew Watt, the institute's head of policy. "But if a charity had had some previous contact with a company, we wouldn't foresee any problems."