Signing-up to the preference service 'could be time-limited'

It is understood that Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the Fundraising Regulator, told a conference that the organisation believes sign-ups should have to be renewed

Direct mail: sign-ups to FPS could be limited to one or two years
Direct mail: sign-ups to FPS could be limited to one or two years

The Fundraising Regulator believes that sign-ups to the Fundraising Preference Service should be limited to two years and would need to be renewed, Third Sector understands.

Speaking at a London conference on protecting and managing data in the voluntary sector last week, Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the Fundraising Regulator, is understood to have said that the regulator believes that sign-ups to the FPS should be renewed periodically and is thinking that this should be done after two years in the first instance.

Oppenheim was speaking immediately before the regulator held a board meeting at which it was due to decide which recommendations drawn up by the FPS working group it wanted to put into practice.

He said he would not be able to pre-judge what was decided but is understood to have volunteered details about the regulator’s plans as part of his presentation.

Oppenheim is understood to have said that the regulator was considering putting in place a system that would offer consumers a "small and large reset".

Triggering the small reset would mean people would be signposted to the Telephone Preference Service or Mailing Preference Service to deal with their problems, whereas triggering the large reset would stop communications entirely.

Oppenheim said people who opted for the large reset would be offered a form of grace period, rather like unsubscribe buttons that tell people it will take 21 days for them to stop receiving communications.

He said the regulator was keen to discuss the lawfulness of such an option with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

He said the regulator was getting to the point of favouring a system in which people would be able to sign up for the FPS on behalf of someone else only if they had power of attorney or similar rights in place.

He said donating to a charity after signing up to the FPS would override the service.

He is also understood to have said that, because the service would apply to fundraising programmes operating at significant scale, smaller charities would not be affected.

This is understood to be in line with one of the main recommendations of the FPS working group, which said that the service should apply only to charities whose fundraising activity exceeds a certain volume.

When asked, Oppenheim did not say what volume of fundraising would be considered significant, instead pointing to the levy the regulator intends to charge charities that spend £100,000 or more a year on fundraising.

The FPS is expected to be launched in early 2017 and be reviewed after two years, Oppenheim said.

He said it would focus on direct mail and telephone fundraising, not texts and email, which are already covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

He said the FPS would not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act because the regulator was a company limited by guarantee.

Asked if Oppenheim’s comments were a confirmation of how the FPS would work, a spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said: "The points were given as a broad overview of the things being considered by the FPS working group, ahead of the 13 July board meeting and eventual drafting of the FPS discussion paper, not a confirmation of content."

This is not the first time a time limit for FPS sign-ups has been mooted. George Kidd, the Direct Marketing Commission chair who led the FPS working group, said in April that registration could be limited to one or two years.

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