Minister 'slightly disappointed' at lack of total reset button for FPS

Rob Wilson supported the idea of a Fundraising Preference Service that would allow people to stop all charity communications

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society
Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, has said he is "slightly disappointed" by the Fundraising Regulator's decision not to pursue Sir Stuart Etherington’s original recommendation that the Fundraising Preference Service should feature a total reset button.

The regulator announced today that the FPS, which the regulator now plans to launch in spring or early summer 2017, would no longer have such a feature, and that people would instead be able to block only specific charities from communicating with them.

Etherington’s review of fundraising self-regulation proposed in September 2015 that an FPS be created to "provide a person with a full opt-out, completely preventing the receipt of unsolicited contact by charities and other fundraising organisations".

Etherington, who is chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said at the time that the service would enable people to "hit the reset button" on communications they received from charities. Wilson is understood to have been a strong proponent of the idea.

Responding to the regulator’s announcement, Wilson said today: "I am slightly disappointed that the original proposal of complete reset is no longer being pursued."

But he said he understood the arguments in favour of the approach the regulator’s board had agreed on.

"What really matters is that the FPS delivers the necessary protections for vulnerable and elderly people," he said. "This is what the FPS and Fundraising Regulator will be held to account for."

Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the regulator, told Third Sector this morning that the minister had been informed of the news and had responded by saying that it was up to the regulator’s independent board to decide on the right approach.

According to a spokesman for the NCVO, Etherington is "not at all" disappointed by the rejection of his proposal.

"He’s pleased we’ve arrived at a solution that demonstrates the sector takes the public’s concerns seriously and will also be readily achievable for the Fundraising Regulator," the spokesman said.

The chief executives body Acevo has expressed concerns about the FPS decision for other reasons.

A statement from the body said it remained unclear how the regulator would manage the lists of people who signed up to the service – for example, whether each charity would be emailed with the details of each person as they opted out or whether they would be notified that someone had joined the FPS and asked to check the list.

"The danger is that vagueness results in more pointless bureaucracy for hard-pressed charities – and that means less energy going to support vulnerable people in these uncertain economic times," the statement said.

The Institute of Fundraising, which has been warning since last year that a single "reset button" would be unlikely to satisfy charities and donors, and the Direct Marketing Association both welcomed the regulator’s announcement. 

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said today: "Our members will be reassured by the development of a more sophisticated and donor-focused approach than the original single reset button, which would have stopped fundraising approaches for all charities and in doing so could have cut off supporters from causes they care about and led to millions of pounds in lost donations."

John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the DMA, who was a member of the FPS working group, said: "In line with our focus on creating a sustainable future for fundraising, it seems to present an accessible solution for all charities.

"However, we would urge the regulator to ensure the service is robust, easily accessible and, in particular, protects vulnerable consumers."

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