The murky world of charity data has been exposed once more after an adjudication against Age UK revealed its fundraising team had “misleading” obtained contact details from its commercial arm in attempt to get one man to sign up for a legacy.
The issue only came to light following a complaint made by the man after he was phoned by Age UK, despite being on the Telephone Preference Service.
To complicate matters, the call was made before the introduction of new guidance which states all charities must run their databases against the TPS – including existing supporters.
However, even at the time of the call – in April last year – charities had to prove they had an existing relationship before calling supporters registered on the TPS. The case was referred to the Fundraising Standards Board, which investigated whether the charity really did have adequate permission.
Age UK maintained that it had a an existing relationship with the complainant because he had requested a ‘Will Information Pack’ in 2002 from Help the Aged (the charity merged with Age Concern in 2009 to form Age UK).
He also signed up for an energy product through Age UK Enterprises in 2010 (cancelled in 2014) and requested a motor insurance quote from the same company in 2015.
However, on requesting the will pack in 2002, the complainant had not provided his telephone number.
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 make the fundraising call.
Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: “We were concerned 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.
“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.
“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 regulator ruled that the charity breached the Code of Fundraising Practice in five instances and should take steps, including issuing a written apology to the complainant signed by an Age UK director, to remedy the situation.
The case has also been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
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