The FRSB has upheld a complaint made against Age UK, ruling that the organisation breached the Code of Fundraising Practice when the charity contacted a person registered to the TPS asking him to consider leaving a gift in his will.
In an adjudication report published today, the FRSB has ruled that Age UK was in breach of the marketing calls clause of the Code of Fundraising Practice, after it contacted the man in April 2015.
As part of upholding the complaint, the FRSB has instructed Age UK to issue the complainant with a formal, written apology signed by a director of the charity, to conduct regular reviews of its fundraising database and remove individuals who “have not proactively engaged as donors in a number of years” and to ensure that all future opt out statements clearly outline how an individual’s details will be used and are more convenient for use by donors.
In its judgment, the FRSB said that the case has been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: “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 spokesperson from Age UK said: “We are disappointed that the Fundraising Standards Board has found against Age UK over this complaint because we believed we had complied with the regulation then in place.
"However, we fully recognise the complainant’s concerns and have apologised unreservedly for the distress caused. 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.
“Over the last year fundraising regulations have changed and so have ideas about best practice. Since then Age UK has made a commitment to contact our charitable donors every two years to ask them if they are happy to renew their consent for us to continue calling them for fundraising purposes.
"This is over and above current regulations and in line with the Information Commissioner’s Office’s current best practice advice on telephone fundraising – a significantly higher standard than charities have to meet.
“Age UK’s fundraising charter, which we have also put in place since then, provides additional reassurance to anyone who is kind enough to consider supporting us, setting out, for example, our commitment not to fundraise door-to-door.
The complainant raised concerns with both the charity and subsequently with the FRSB, over what he considered to be a “cold and unsolicited call” from the charity in April 2015.
Age UK refuted this, telling the FRSB that they contacted the complainant because “it had a sufficiently established relationship” with him which, under the old fundraising standards, meant they were not required to check the individual’s details against the TPS register.
The FRSB found that the complainant had never actually donated to Age UK, but had once requested a ‘Will Information Pack’ in 2002 from Help the Aged (which merged with Age Concern in 2009 to form Age UK). The complainant had also “expressed interest” in two products from Age UK Enterprises, the charity’s commercial arm, in 2010.
The FRSB’s adjudication panel found that these interactions were “limited” and that the relationship was “not sufficient to warrant overriding TPS registration with a fundraising call”.
Alongside its breach of the marketing calls clause of the Code, the FRSB also found that Age UK had breached data processing, personal data and consent requirement and had also misled the complainant over how his personal data was to be used.