New Direct Marketing Association code of practice discourages charities from calling people at anti-social times

The DMA said the code would address public concerns about one-to-one marketing after Channel 4's Dispatches report on telephone fundraising

Direct Marketing Association
Direct Marketing Association

The Direct Marketing Association’s new code of practice, which comes into force on Monday, will encourage charities to avoid calling people at anti-social times and urge them to take responsibility "above and beyond compliance with the law".

The new code, available on the trade body’s website, includes rules on calling people at anti-social times, working with vulnerable adults and using high-pressure selling techniques.

The DMA said that adopting the new code would be central to charities’ efforts to address public concerns about one-to-one marketing, such as data use. It said that, after Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on telephone fundraising, which was broadcast earlier this week, it was more important than ever for charities to maintain the highest standards of direct marketing.

Chris Combemale, executive director of the DMA, said in a statement: "We've taken a new approach to self-regulation that recognises the need to focus on principles that go above and beyond compliance with the law. It's perfectly easy to follow all of the details of regulation and yet fail to meet the expectations of supporters, such as how you use their data."

The new rules say that DMA members should not exploit a person’s lack of knowledge or inexperience, particularly if that person is a child or otherwise vulnerable, and they should not use high-pressure selling techniques.

DMA members include some of the UK’s largest charities, including Age UK, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Save the Children. The code will be enforced by the direct marketing industry's watchdog, the DM Commission, and was developed after an 18-month consultation process with Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office. The Ministry of Justice and Department for Culture, Media and Sport also provided input.

Combemale said: "Our code centres on five principles to inspire the industry to serve each customer with fairness and respect. Charities must follow these principles to foster trust and to achieve their fundraising goals."

The DMA also has guidelines, published in 2012, for call centres dealing with vulnerable consumers. The Institute of Fundraising has been reviewing its code of practice to consider including more provision for vulnerable people, particularly older people, after the Fundraising Standards Board asked it to do so in April.

The FRSB’s Complaints Report 2014 highlighted that direct mail and telephone fundraising received the largest proportion of fundraising complaints last year. Addressed direct mail prompted more than 16,966 complaints and telephone fundraising received 8,019.

The Dispatches programme, broadcast on Monday, interviewed members of the public who were unhappy with telephone fundraising, including a daughter who was concerned that call centres used by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity took advantage of her "confused" elderly father to encourage him to increase his direct-debit donations, and an 82-year-old lady who hid her telephone in order to avoid frequent calls from fundraisers.

Undercover researchers working at the agencies NTT Fundraising and Pell & Bales also reported in the programme being pressured to meet daily targets when signing up donors.

Susannah Birkwood

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