The Code of Charity Retailing, which was introduced in 2005 as a voluntary standard, has so far been adopted by 96 per cent of the association's membership. However, in just over a year's time, the remaining 4 per cent will be required to adopt new standards in areas such as house-to-house collection of goods, operation of recycling banks and in-store activities.
Charities signed up to the code are also asked to treat the public with consideration, provide clear information to customers and donors and provide support and training for staff and volunteers. The association estimates that its current membership covers 90 per cent of charity shops in the UK.
"When we introduced the scheme on a voluntary basis, it was always with the intention that it would be made mandatory at some point," said Lekha Klouda, director of the Association of Charity Shops. "The code represents a commitment to the promotion of best practice in line with policy makers' emphasis that the sector should be self-regulating.
"We are hopeful that this will not be seen as a move towards becoming exclusive. We just want to raise the standards of operation."
Ken Blair, chief executive of British Heart Foundation Shops, said the move would strengthen the sector. "It will ensure our members comply with good practice in a clear and sensible way," he said.