Bogus collections publicity push

Six key regulators are planning to develop a public awareness campaign to help reduce the number of bogus clothing collections, which cost charities up to £3m a year in lost sales.

The Charity Commission, the Office of Fair Trading, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Trading Standards Institute, the Association of Charity Shops, the Advertising Standards Authority and Ed Miliband, minister for the third sector at the time, met in June to discuss the problem. They decided that a public awareness campaign highlighting the practice of bogus collections was the best approach.

A further meeting to develop the campaign is planned for later this year. An exact date has not yet been set.

David Moir, head of policy and public affairs at the Association of Charity Shops, said: "The difficulty is that there are competing priorities for enforcers and regulators. For them, it's not a priority."

The association has been developing a database that would allow charity collectors to share information on suspicious activity. "Quite a lot of members have been interested," said Moir.

Michael Lomotey, head of collection protection at Clothes Aid, which makes collections for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, said that at least 95 bogus clothing collection companies operated in the UK.

Clothes Aid runs a hotline for reporting suspicious activity and employs motorcycle teams to follow bogus collectors (Third Sector Online, 10 August).

Lomotey added: "There is a lot of cross-reference between these companies: the director of one is often the secretary of another."

Also...

The Charity Commission is investigating registered charity the Children's Welfare Foundation after members of the public complained that they received leaflets from it requesting clothing donations but were unable to contact the charity.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "Complainants have reported that the telephone numbers given are either not working or that when they get through people are unable to get clear information about collections."

Michael Lomotey, head of collection protection at Clothes Aid, which collects clothing for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, also received complaints about the charity.

"We can't find anything out about the organisation," he said. "The website doesn't work, it doesn't answer emails and the director is very evasive."

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