Charities won't have to screen lists against FPS

Emails obtained by Third Sector show the Fundraising Regulator intends to inform charities at regular intervals if their supporters have signed up to the service

The Fundraising Regulator plans to regularly inform charities if any of their supporters have signed up to the Fundraising Preference Service, according to emails obtained by Third Sector.

The emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that rather than requiring charities to screen their mailing and call lists against the FPS, the regulator intends to proactively inform charities if anyone that supports them has signed up to the service.

It had been expected that fundraisers would have to check the FPS themselves before embarking on their campaigns.

The plan is revealed in an email, dated 20 May, sent by Richard Marbrow, senior policy officer at the Information Commissioner's Office, to Stephen Dunmore, the regulator's chief executive, and Gerald Oppenheim, its head of policy.

It is likely to be welcomed by those who had feared that the cost and time associated with this process would be a substantial burden for charities.

In the email, Marbrow, who is the main charities representative at the ICO, says: "The FPS is designed to act as a reset button and we discussed that you would be informing charities on a regular basis of the people who had decided to use this reset and thereby wished to invalidate previous consents rather than requiring charities to screen their lists against the FPS."

Marbrow also confirms that charities will not be able to send fundraising communications to FPS subscribers who had previously opted in to a charity’s communications.

He says: "We take the view that the FPS would be acting as an agent for the subscriber in withdrawing (resetting) any previous consents."

He says this will distinguish the FPS from the Telephone Preference Service because the TPS does not automatically reset previous consents, thereby allowing charities to "pierce the shield" of the service by relying on pre-existing consents.

He adds: "The ICO would feel able to enforce against a charity in the presence of both a TPS and FPS registration, even if the charity would previously have believed that they retained consent."

In a separate email, dated 4 July, Marbrow refers to the ICO’s decision, announced at the Institute of Fundraising Convention last month, to allow charities to include requests for consent in the thank-you texts they send to donors. He describes the decision as a "significant carrot", which will show the sector that it is being listened to.

Asked to expand on how charities will be informed about FPS notifications, a spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said: "Proposals outlining how the FPS will operate in practice will be published later this month, alongside the final levy and registration model.

"We look forward to receiving comments from the public and charitable fundraising sector on our recommendations."

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