The fundraising agency GoGen has suspended activities at some of its call centres after several large charities put on hold their contracts with it after allegations about poor working practices appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper.
An undercover investigation by the Mail this week alleged that the agency had been exploiting loopholes in the Telephone Preference Service rules, which prompted the Information Commissioner’s Office to launch an investigation.
Oxfam, the British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK and the NSPCC are among the charities to confirm that they have suspended work with GoGen since the allegations against the company surfaced on the Mail’s website on Monday night and in the print edition the next morning.
The Mail reported this morning that three of GoGen’s four call centres were forced to close down with immediate effect because charities had withdrawn their business.
Giuseppe Iantosca, company director at GoGen, said in a statement today that some of the agency’s activities were on hold "for the time being" while an independent audit took place.
He told Third Sector he could not answer further questions, saying he was focused on speaking to the agency’s clients. A spokeswoman for GoGen declined to say how many call centres were affected or for how long.
But calls by Third Sector to GoGen’s Bristol office went unanswered this morning, while the telephone in the agency’s Nottingham office was answered by the agency’s landlord, who said the office had shut down its operations and no staff were there.
The person who answered the phone at GoGen Bedford declined to say whether the office was open and making calls. The receptionist at GoGen London said the office was functioning.
Iantosca said in a statement: "Some activities are on hold for the time being while the independent audit is taking place.
"GoGen is committed to the highest of standards and acting in the best way to the people we speak to. In addition to the independent audit, we encourage further guidance in this area and are looking forward to working with the Fundraising Standards Board, the Information Commissioner and the Institute of Fundraising on this."
The news comes as Chris Grayling, the Leader of the House of Commons, told MPs yesterday that charities ought to "get their house in order pretty quickly" if they did not want the government to react sharply to their practices in the charities bill, which MPs will vote on this autumn.
In response to a question during a debate in the Commons, Grayling said that the Daily Mail’s campaign on charities had been immensely valuable in highlighting a "shocking" set of practices.
"It is simply unacceptable for charities to exploit vulnerable, elderly people to raise funds," he said. "Charities that have been involved in such practices should be ashamed of themselves."
Grayling had been asked by Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, whether MPs could have a debate to ensure that the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice had "teeth" and that certain charities’ "grotesque" practices were stopped.
Evans said this was necessary after the Daily Mail’s exposure of what he called appalling practices being used against the most vulnerable and elderly in society.