Changes to European Union rules could mean tighter controls on telephone fundraising, the chair of the Telephone Preference Service has warned.
Colin Lloyd, who is also chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, told Third Sector the EU was to launch a consultation on the revision of its Data Protection Directive in January 2010.
He said that in Germany, where people must opt in to receive marketing calls rather than opt out, the rules on the use of data had been substantially tightened earlier this year after the government lost the records of 20 million citizens.
Charities had previously had special treatment under the German rules, he said, but because it was unclear which of the new rules applied to them and which did not, telephone fundraising had now virtually ground to a halt.
Lloyd said the German government was keen to introduce common laws across the EU through a revised Data Protection Directive, which could lead to the introduction of an opt-in system for telemarketing in other member states.
"The worst-case scenario is that the UK will end up with Germany's tight regulations, but without its special treatment for charities," he said. "If this opt-in regime affected direct mail too, it would be a disaster. This is something charities in the UK ought to have on their agenda."
Lloyd said the fact that charities had been treated more benignly than businesses in Germany was encouraging and could set a precedent.
"The UK should have a case prepared in time for the beginning of the consultation in January," he said.