Fundraising Preference Service 'confusing', says Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner

He says he is not in favour of a key plank of the Etherington review of fundraising regulation

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner
Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner

The proposed Fundraising Preference Service, which will enable people to opt out of all charity telephone calls and direct mail, could lead to "greater confusion", according to Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Westminster this morning, Graham expressed concern that the new service, put forward by Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of the self-regulation of fundraising and subsequently endorsed by the government, would be difficult to enforce.

Etherington said last month that the FPS would enable people to "hit the reset button" on communications they received from charities and was particularly aimed at helping elderly or vulnerable people and those receiving high volumes of direct mail or large numbers of telephone fundraising calls.

But Graham told MPs this morning: "I’m not in favour of the Fundraising Preference FPS idea, which I think is simply a confusion.

"The Telephone Preference Service is something I can enforce under the privacy and electronic communications regulations, but I’m worried that the FPS is something I wouldn’t have any status to enforce, and it I think it might lead to greater confusion when we actually need clarity."

Graham and Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office, told MPs that the ICO had contacted eight charities last year with concerns about their activities. Asked who those charities were, Graham said he would write to the committee to confirm their names.

He said that at first sight there appeared to be evidence that charities identified in investigations by the Daily Mail newspaper had breached privacy and data rules and that the ICO might take enforcement action.

"I do think that there is a prima facie case, and the investigation is to see whether the breaches are of a civil or a criminal nature and then to decide what to do about it," he said.

He also said he was concerned that it took until August this year for the Institute of Fundraising to accept that guidance on direct marketing published by the ICO in 2013 applied to charities.

Graham said: "It is a matter of some disappointment that the Institute of Fundraising appeared to be resisting the reality that the direct marketing guidance did apply to the charity sector."

The IoF announced on 18 August that it had changed its Code of Fundraising Practice on telephone fundraising so that fundraisers must no longer make direct marketing calls to existing donors or supporters who are also registered on the Telephone Preference Service and Corporate TPS, except when except where donors have specifically told them this is acceptable. 


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