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Dogs Trust breached Code of Fundraising Practice by calling TPS-registered individual

Dogs Trust breached Code of Fundraising Practice by calling TPS-registered individual

The Fundraising Standards Board has upheld a complaint about a fundraising call made by telephone fundraising agency NTT Fundraising on behalf of the charity Dogs Trust.

The complainant lodged a complaint in September 2015 because he was registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and could not recall giving his permission for the charity to contact him.

Insufficient permission to contact

The complainant’s contact details had been obtained through a third party data supplier. He had participated in two lifestyle marketing survey telephone calls in 2011 and 2015. During these he had agreed that he was willing to hear from ‘third parties’ by phone and email.

Although he was given a list of specific organisations that his details would be passed to, he was not given any opportunity to opt out of contact from these organisations.

The data had been supplied for the charity to use in its telephone fundraising campaign which was carried out by NTT Fundraising. Although both the agency and the charity believed that the second marketing survey telephone call had secured the individual’s permission for future calls, the FRSB ruled that any permission given was not sufficient to override TPS regulations. It judged that the complainant had not been asked to provide informed or specific consent to future fundraising calls from those organisations.

Breaches of the Code

Consequently the self-regulatory body for the fundraising sector found that both NTT Fundraising and the data supplier had been in breach of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice (clause 8.2.3(b) 2 ).

This states that organisations:

“MUST NOT make direct marketing calls to TPS registered numbers unless the person who registered the number has notified the organisation that they are happy to receive calls for the time being.”

The FRSB found that Dogs Trust had breached the Code by failing to have “sufficient oversight” of the marketing leads that were secured for its donor acquisition campaign.

Referral to ICO

The case has now been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to determine whether breaches of the Data Protection Act or Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) have occurred.

Andrew Hind, Chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, commented on the findings, saying:

“It is essential that organisations secure appropriate levels of consent for any charity fundraising calls, particularly when it comes to contacting people registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Charities working with third parties must do all they can to ensure that those third parties comply with the Code and secure the necessary permissions for any fundraising calls that will be carried out in the charity’s name.”

Improvements since the complaint

The organisations involved have taken steps to ensure that they do not breach the Code of Fundraising Practice again.

Following the complaint and investigation, Dogs Trust has indicated that it has stopped making fundraising calls to individual contacts secured through ‘lifestyle’ marketing surveys ,unless the individual had given consent in response to a question specifically naming the charity.

NTT has achieved TPS Assured certification and regularly audits all the data contacts it receives from third parties.

FRSB recommendations

The FRSB has recommended that NTT goes further and that it reviews all current agreements and scripts in use by third party suppliers to ensure that consent obtained in this way is compliant with the Code.

It has also recommended that all charities that use ‘lifestyle’ marketing surveys to obtain new marketing leads regularly review the content of survey scripts and consider spot-checking those telephone calls.

The adjudication report is available from the FRSB.

The FRSB will be replaced by the Fundraising Regulator in July 2016.

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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