The government has dismissed the concerns of a committee of MPs about the Fundraising Preference Service, saying it still believes it should be created.
In a statement published yesterday in response to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report on fundraising self-regulation, the government reiterated its view that the FPS would give people who felt inundated by fundraising requests a simple way to opt out of such communications.
The PACAC report, which was published in January, was critical of the Etherington review’s proposal to set up an FPS, saying it would duplicate the function of the existing Telephone Preference Service and add limitations to the activities of charities that do not exist for any other sector.
But the government’s response says: "The FPS will cut across all direct channels, including telephone, text message and mail, and will therefore not simply duplicate existing services.
"It will also address the issue that other services, such as the Telephone Preference Service and the Mailing Preference Service, were often ignored in the past and are not an effective way of removing consent across a number of fundraising channels."
On the argument that it was unfair for such a service to exist for fundraising but not for other sectors, the government says the need for the FPS had arisen because people had found themselves subscribed to multiple lists against their wishes because of poor practice such as data-sharing and selling without consent.
The government’s response says the service might offer "nuanced options" that would allow people to remain opted in to receiving communications from charities they genuinely support. This echoes the words of Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the new Fundraising Regulator, who said at Third Sector's recent Fundraising Week that this was being considered by the working group led by George Kidd.
The government also rejected the committee’s recommendation that the new Fundraising Regulator should be made accountable to the Charity Commission, saying that giving the commission such oversight would represent "quasi-statutory regulation".
The government’s response says: "The Charity Commission itself has said that it currently has neither the necessary resources nor expertise to properly fulfill this function.
"Reserve powers in section 14 of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 would enable the government to make the Charity Commission responsible for fundraising regulation, should the new system of self-regulation fail."
It similarly dismissed PACAC’s call for the commission to act as a guarantor of the new system. The chair of the PACAC, Bernard Jenkin, had tabled an amendment to the charities bill to this effect in January, but it was not voted on after Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, said he did not support it.
Responding to the PACAC report’s proposal that the commission should be given the power to hold public hearings on fundraising regulation and charity activity with representatives of charities, the government says the commission already had that power. "However, it does not usually do so because it would not be an effective means of undertaking its case work," it says.
In response to PACAC’s request for it to bring into force section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 immediately to allow the Information Commissioner to enforce laws, the government says it plans to use the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation as an opportunity to "stress test" the existing sanctions concerning the misuse of personal data to ensure they were fit for purpose.
"In particular, we will review current penalties for data-protection breaches and aim for sanctions that act as effective deterrents against the misuse of personal data in all contexts," it says.
The response agrees with the PACAC report’s conclusion that this was the last chance for the sector to make self-regulation work.