The Fundraising Standards Board has referred a complaint about a telephone fundraising call made on behalf of Breast Cancer Campaign to the Information Commissioner’s Office because of concerns that data protection laws were broken.
In an adjudication published today, the FRSB said that a phone call made by the fundraising agency Insight CCI on behalf of Breast Cancer Campaign had breached two parts of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice and potentially breached the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
The complainant, who is not named in the adjudication, said that their telephone number, which was registered with the Telephone Preference Service, had been used unlawfully for marketing purposes.
The complainant was contacted by Insight CCI in November after it had bought the individual’s details from a list broker called PDV Ltd.
The complainant’s details had originally been provided by an India-based company called Dynaxon IT Services, which had carried out a telephone lifestyle survey with the purpose of creating leads for a variety of charities and commercial companies.
The complainant said that they did not take part in this survey or give permission to be contacted. The company’s call records indicated that another person took part in the survey, but the complainant said there was no such person at their address.
The FRSB, whose board dealt with the complaint at the third and final stage of its complaints process, said that listening to a partial recording of the Dynaxon survey that was supplied to it indicated possible breaches of the DPA and the PEC regulations.
These included failing to exclude people registered with the TPS from marketing calls and deceiving or misleading people over how their data would be used.
A spokesman for the ICO confirmed that it had received the complaint and had begun making inquiries, but it was too early to say how long the case would take and what might happen.
Sanctions available to the ICO include compelling organisations to sign undertakings pledging they will change their behaviour and, in the most extreme cases, levying fines of up to £500,000.
The FRSB also identified breaches of the IoF code in the fundraising call itself, which was made to ask for support for the charity’s Pink Ribbon Lottery.
A recording of the call showed that the fundraiser said that the breast cancer survival rate of 85 per cent was mainly due to Breast Cancer Campaign’s breast tissue banks.
But this claim breached the IoF’s code clause 1.2(c) relating to the exaggeration of facts, the FRSB said, because it could not be substantiated.
The fundraiser also failed to ask the complainant if they consented to being contacted in breach of section 8.3.1(b) of the code, which says, "If the telephone call is first contact with a donor, the caller ought to ask if the recipient consents to being contacted at that time."
The complaint was escalated to the FRSB after the complainant was referred by the charity to Insight CCI and then to PDV. The adjudication says that Breast Cancer Campaign should have taken responsibility for the complaint.
Colin Lloyd, chair of the FRSB, said the issue of unwanted direct-marketing calls was high on the political agenda. "The chain of data collection, control, processing and usage in this case highlights the importance of ensuring that data used for telephone fundraising fully meets the requirements of the IoF code, as well as Data Protection and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations," he said.
Danielle Atkinson, assistant director of public fundraising at Breast Cancer Campaign, said the charity was sorry for what had happened.
"As an organisation we are firmly committed to meeting the best possible fundraising standards and we regret that these were not reached in full on this occasion. The fundraiser in question has been given refresher training and we will be doing our utmost to ensure that this does not happen again.
"Ultimate responsibility for the delivery of this campaign was ours and we would like to extend our sincere apologies to the complainant for any inconvenience caused. While we acted in good faith on the understanding that permission had been expressed, we are truly sorry about the way in which this particular situation unfolded."
Breast Cancer Campaign merged with Breakthrough Breast Cancer on 1 April to create a new breast cancer charity. Its name is yet to be announced.