Charities apologise after ICO fines

05 Apr 2017 News

ICO's website accouncing the ruling

One of the the 11 charities named and fined today by the Information Commissioner’s Office has said it is considering an appeal but the other ten have all accepted the ruling. 

Cancer Support UK (formerly Cancer Recovery Foundation UK) has said it is considering whether or not to appeal the fine. The charity was handed one of the largest fines by the ICO - £16,000 - and accused the ICO of ignoring its evidence.

Gemma Holding, the chief executive of Cancer Support UK, said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” by the fine, and called the ICO’s decision “ill founded, excessive and disproportionate”. She also said that the organisation “had clarified a number of factual and legal inaccuracies” in the ICO’s original penalty notice, which it said the ICO “has ignored”.

Holding said: “Prior to the ICO’s investigation the charity had already implemented all the necessary changes to improve our direct mail and data protection practices and ensure gold standard compliance, all of which has been explained in detail to the ICO. 

"In light of these changes we are therefore extremely disappointed that the ICO has today issued us with a fine of £16,000. We consider the fine to be ill founded, excessive and disproportionate.

“We significantly changed our operational and strategic approach in 2016, which included parting company with all our US based fundraising advisers, which collectively had been delegated responsibility for all our fundraising activity. Instead we appointed UK based fundraisers with the board assuming direct oversight of fundraising activities. 

"This change is the single most important factor in moving forward to becoming a more effective, transparent and accountable organisation – well placed to offer relevant services to people with cancer across the UK.”

IFAW: 'We disagree with the decision'

Another charity, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said it considered appealing but decided it was not in the charity's best interests

The IFAW said: “IFAW has considered whether to appeal, as we do not agree with many of the ICO findings. We are extremely disappointed that the ICO has chosen to impose a fine. We take our responsibilities to our supporters very seriously – they choose to support us because they trust us to rescue and protect animals around the world. We work tremendously hard to use their donations in the most effective way possible to have the maximum impact.

“Despite the fact that we disagree with the ICO’s decision to issue a fine, we do not believe it is in the best interests of our supporters to fight the finding, which would detract from our work to fulfil our mission to rescue and protect animals. It is also possible that the costs of appealing could be greater than the fine itself. We intend to pay the fine with interest from our investment income.”

Other charities responses

Sir Harpul Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, apologised to its supporters in his statement on the fines.

“Cancer Research UK has not used supporters’ data in ways which we believed were incompatible with their desire to help us beat cancer sooner. In fact, our supporters have consistently told us that they want us to use our funds efficiently and only send them information that is most likely to interest them. That is what we have tried to do, but the ICO has ruled that we were not clear enough with our supporters on these points. I sincerely apologise for this”.

He also said CRUK have made “additional changes” to its data management, privacy and fundraising policies and that it hasn’t “shared data with other charities for many years”.

Steve Vaid, acting chief executive of Guide Dogs for the Blind, said: “We apologise sincerely for any concern this caused our supporters. Guide Dogs believed we were following regulations outlined in the Data Protection Act and guidelines from the Institute of Fundraising, however we acted as soon as the ICO gave clear guidance on the matter.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of the ICO investigation, but we understand how important it is to our donors that we meet the highest standards when handling their data. We work hard to achieve these standards and build and maintain their trust and we are 100 per cent committed to engaging in fundraising in a way which complies fully with all legislation and guidelines.”

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Supporter, said the organisation “take this fine very seriously” but said it acted according to its “understanding of sector guidance at the time”.

“We are dedicated to supporting millions of people affected by cancer every year and we apply the highest of standards to all of our work. This includes taking great care in the way we manage the details of anyone who donates money to our cause. 

"Although we acted according to our understanding of sector guidance at the time, we are now clear that we need to give supporters more information about we how use their details. We would like to apologise to our supporters for our mistake.

"Over the past year, we have made many important changes to the way we work. We are completely reviewing how we talk to donors about the ways we use their information, so that anyone giving money to us feels absolutely sure that we will respect their privacy and preferences.”

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said: “We have accepted a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office for contraventions of aspects of the Data Protection Act. No donor’s data was lost, sold or compromised in any way and we have invested heavily in our data operations since and are confident that no such contraventions will happen in the future.

“Donors and fundraisers can be assured that we will continue to help members of the British Armed Forces, veterans and their families while preserving the memory of all those who have served their country.”

An NSPCC spokeswoman said the charity was “disappointed by the ICO’s decision to issue what we regard as an unjustified fine” but said that “friends of the charity have said they will pay the bill, so not a single penny of any donation will be diverted from our work”.

She also said: “If anyone has been affected by these unintentional failings, then of course we apologise. Significant changes have been made to the way we fundraise to ensure these mistakes don’t happen again.

“We want to be clear: we have never, and will never, sell or share our supporters’ data with other charities.”

Tim Johnson, chief executive of GOSH, said: “We are disappointed with this outcome, however we will continue to work with the ICO and other regulators to ensure we operate to the highest standards. We know this is what our supporters would expect from us; it is only through their generosity that we are able to make such a difference to seriously ill children.

“We are sorry for any mistakes that we made, we continually review the way we fundraise so that we are working to best practice. Over the last three years, we have changed the way we manage our supporters’ personal information. This is set out in our updated privacy policy.”

A spokesman from WWF-UK, said: “We take our data protection responsibilities extremely seriously and are committed to ensuring our data practices not only follow the law but also serve the best interests of all our supporters. We sincerely apologise for any instances where we have failed to meet the high standards our supporters expect of us. We have fully implemented the ICO recommendations.

“We are hugely grateful to all our supporters, they are critical to our success and at the heart of everything we do. Without them our work, ranging from supporting threatened species like tigers and rhinos through to campaigning to stop climate change, would not be possible."

A spokeswoman from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” with the ICO fines, but said it intended to pay the fine “swiftly and in doing so, it will be reduced” to £7,200.

She also said Battersea wanted its supporters to know that “none of their data has been lost, sold or compromised in any way”.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: "Oxfam places the highest importance on our relationship with our supporters and has always acted in good faith in attempting to follow both good practice and the law as we understood it.

"While tele-matching was recognised as a legitimate activity by the ICO, we accept that our privacy notice did not adequately address the issue and we say sorry to our supporters for that. We would stress that all people called were given the chance to terminate calls immediately and we did not use tele-matched data to call people registered with the telephone preference service.

"We take the protection of our supporters' data extremely seriously. As the ICO recognises, we have been quick to address their concerns when they have raised them with us."


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