Leading charity breached code of conduct over unsolicited call
Age UK has been rapped by a regulator for cold calling a member of the public and asking him to consider leaving cash to the charity in his will.
The individual complained to the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) after reciving the call in April 2015, a call he said was “cold and unsolicited” as he was registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) which allows individuals to stop cold calls.
In its defence, Age UK Age argued it had a sufficient relationship with the complainant to make such a call.
While the complainant had never donated to the charity, he had requested a Will Information Pack in 2002 from Help the Aged (the charity merged with Age Concern in 2009 to form Age UK), signed up for an energy product through Age UK Enterprises in 2010 (which he cancelled in 2014) and requested a motor insurance quote from the same company in 2015.
In an adjudication, the FRSB concluded that, since the complainant had never been a donor to the charity, and had only ever had a limited interaction with it – merely requesting a Will pack more than 12 years previously and expressing interest in two products from Age UK Enterprises – the relationship was not sufficient to warrant overriding TPS registration with a fundraising call.
The FRSB therefore upheld the complaint finding Age UK in breach of the marketing calls clause 8.2.3(b) of its code.
Charities need to be diligent in ensuring that they are only communicating with those who genuinely want to hear from them
The FRSB also reported that the charity had breached data processing, use of personal data and consent requirements by failing to provide clear opt out statements or to update data records and had misled the complainant over how his contact details might be used in future.
Andrew Hind, chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, said: “Charities need to be diligent in ensuring that they are only communicating with those who genuinely want to hear from them. When consent is given, charities cannot just assume that an individual is happy to continue receiving correspondence for many years afterwards, in the absence of a complaint or a specific request to opt out.
“We were particularly concerned in this case to discover that the complainant’s phone number had been misleadingly obtained from his commercial interaction with Age UK Enterprises, by Age UK, for fundraising purposes.
“Changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice since last summer reinforce the importance of providing clear and easy ways for the public to opt out of fundraising contact and to always observe data protection requirements.”
A spokeswoman for Age UK said the charity was disappointed the FRSB had found against it because it believed it had complied with the regulation that was in place at the time.
"However, we fully recognise the complainant’s concerns and have apologised unreservedly for the distress caused," she said. "Quite rightly, the public expects all charities to adhere to the highest standards of fundraising and, as far as Age UK is concerned, any complaint is one too many."