Regulator investigates social enterprise’s fundraising practices after complaints

16 May 2024 News

Fundraising Regulator logo

The Fundraising Regulator has confirmed it is investigating a social enterprise’s fundraising activities after allegations that it faked stories of helping people, while it raised millions in donations.

This week, the BBC reported that plumbing and heating firm Depher received at least £2m in donations after social media stories of kind acts made CEO James Anderson a viral sensation during the cost-of-living crisis.

However, it alleged that Depher used vulnerable people’s photos without consent and Anderson spent company cash on a house and car.

A spokesperson for the Fundraising Regulator said it opened an investigation into Depher after receiving “a number of complaints from members of the public”.

Meanwhile, the Charity Commission confirmed it had previously rejected Depher’s applications to register as a charity after determining that it was not charitable.

BBC allegations

Celebrities including singer Lily Allen and actor Hugh Grant were reportedly among the donors, while Anderson was thanked by the late Queen Elizabeth, and King Charles.

The BBC reported that Depher has helped many people by using donations to provide free food, pay gas and electricity bills, do free plumbing work and even help with funeral costs.

However, it said the organisation used vulnerable people’s photos without consent and Anderson spent company cash on a house and car.

It reported that Depher had claimed that Anderson prevented one elderly woman from killing herself when in fact she had died years earlier.

Anderson reportedly denied some of the BBC’s allegations but admitted to making mistakes due to “bullying, harassment and attacks” by online trolls.

Depher has yet to respond to Civil Society’s request for further comment.


A spokesperson for the regulator said it was investigating whether Depher’s activities have breached its Code of Fundraising Practice.

“While the investigation is ongoing, the Fundraising Regulator cannot prejudice the outcome by publicly commenting on the details of the investigation,” they said.

“Depher is a community interest company (CIC), rather than a registered charity, meaning its operations are regulated by the CIC regulator – though the Fundraising Regulator is of course investigating potential fundraising breaches; there are some charitable objects in Depher’s rules.”

The spokesperson warned donors that CICs like Depher “operate under a considerably less rigorous regulatory regime than registered charities”.

“Many do excellent work, but it is important for the public to know, before they donate, that their donation may be considerably less restricted than if it had gone to a registered charity,” they added.

Meanwhile, an Information Commissioner’s Office spokesperson said it had received “a small number of complaints” about Depher, which were under review.

The Regulator of Community Interest Companies would not confirm whether it was taking any action.

Charity application rejected

The Charity Commission confirmed that it had previously received three applications from an organisation called Depher to join its register, all of which were unsuccessful.

It formally determined that the organisation was not charitable in 2022 and 2023 and refused registration because it was not satisfied how those in need of assistance were being identified, how their charitable needs were being assessed, and how the services provided met a charitable need.

Another application to register as a charity in 2020 was not processed due to it being incomplete.

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