Retailers 'breaking the law' with charity card labelling

Commercial organisations that fail to clearly state how much money from Christmas cards is going to charity are not compliant with the law

Charity Christmas cards
Charity Christmas cards

Some commercial organisations that sell Christmas cards to raise funds for charities are breaking the law by failing to say on the cards how much of the price goes to the charity.

Andrew Studd, a partner at law firm Russell-Cooke, said: "There will definitely be some cards that are not compliant. The whole thing is fraught with difficulty."

The Charities Act 1992 says that when a "commercial participator" works alongside a charity to raise funds, it must state on the labelling a "notifiable amount" that will go to the charity from the sale of the card. This amount can be in the form of a percentage of the price of the card or a monetary amount, such as 50p.

It is not compliant with the law to simply say that a percentage of the profits from the total sale of all the cards will go to the charity, because the consumer will not be able to calculate what this profit will be.

Sharon Little, chief executive of the Greeting Card Association, said her organisation recommended to its members that commercial partners print the actual amount of money the charity is due to receive from the sale of each card on the back of the cards they sell.

"This makes the process completely transparent to the consumer," she said.

Studd said the working methods of commercial organisations made it difficult for them to comply with the rules, because they often did not know in advance the exact proportion of each sale that would go to the charity.

"They are much more likely to say 'let's share the net profits of the programme', so they can share the risk in case not as many cards are sold as they would hope," he said. But simply stating this figure on the cards does not comply with the law.

Instead, Studd said, charities could word their contracts with commercial partners in such a way that they were guaranteed a specific monetary amount, instead of agreeing that a percentage of the profits from the total sale of cards would be given to the charity by the commercial partner. Stating this figure on the back of the cards would make it compliant with the law, he said.

Gemma Parris, card buyer for Paperchase, said the firm printed the amount in pennies that would be contributed to a charity per pack on the back of its boxes of cards. "This makes it clear to the consumer the amount they are donating," she said.

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