The FRSB has ruled that Age UK breached the Code of Fundraising Practice by calling an individual registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
The charity called the complainant in April 2015 to ask him to consider leaving a gift to the charity in his Will. The complainant raised his concerns to the charity about both the sensitive subject matter of what he considered to be a ‘cold and unsolicited call’ and the fact that he had received a telephone marketing call despite being registered with the TPS. The matter was subsequently referred to the FRSB, leading to an adjudication on 18 February 2016.
Age UK maintained that it had a sufficiently established relationship with the complainant to believe that it was not required to check the individual’s details against the TPS register. While the complainant had never donated to the charity, he had requested a ‘Will Information Pack’ in 2002 from Help the Aged, 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. On requesting the Will pack, the complainant did not provide his telephone number nor tick the box opting out of further contact from the charity.
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, the relationship was not sufficient to warrant overriding TPS registration with a fundraising call. As such, the FRSB found Age UK in breach of the marketing calls clause 8.2.3(b) of the Code.
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.
In light of the complainant’s concerns about the sensitive subject matter of the call, the FRSB ruled that the charity had breached the Code.
The FRSB instructed Age UK to:
- Ensure that all future opt out statements clearly outline how an individual’s contact details will be used by Age UK and provide convenient opportunities for individuals to opt out of future contact.
- Conduct regular reviews of its fundraising database and take steps to ensure that individuals who have not proactively engaged as donors with the charity for a number of years are removed from future contact lists.
- Issue a formal, written apology to the complainant, signed by an Age UK Director.
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 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.
“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.”
The case has now been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The full adjudication report is available on the FRSB’s latest adjudications webpage.
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