Charities face legal threat over new marketing rules

crown court 3UK charities face the unedifying prospect of being dragged through British courts if they do not stick to the new marketing rules, with plans to give the fundraising regulator statutory powers to prosecute miscreants. 
NCVO chief Sir Stuart Etherington – whose controversial Regulating Fundraising for the Future report was published six weeks ago – told the Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee this week that the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson plans to add two new clauses to the Charities Bill.
The amendments would give the Government reserve powers to introduce statutory regulation for fundraising and force charities to join the new regulator if they did not follow Etherington’s recommendations.
The Minister is planning to add the clauses to the Charities (Protection & Social Investment) Bill, currently making its passage through Parliament.
The Government has already announced that large charities, likely to be defined as those which spend £100,000 or more a year on public fundraising, could be forced to sign up to a new fundraising watchdog.
It is estimated that the new regulatory system – which Etherington has called co-regulation – will cost between £2m and £2.5m to set up. However, a statutory system would cost much more and would be a huge drain on the public purse.
One crumb of comfort for charities is that the Fundraising Preference Service – which has already been branded “confusing” by the Information Commissioner’s Office – is likely be a service provided to the public and not a piece of statutory regulation.
However, all the other recommendations – including the controversial call for charities to move to an opt-in regime for marketing data – will be covered by the new clauses.
Etherington’s reasoning for the move to so-called explicit consent was prompted by the looming EU General Data Protection Regulation, which he claimed would make all companies adopt this anyway.
However, this is far from a done deal and one which the UK marketing and advertising industry – led by the DMA – is fiercely opposing in Brussels.
Charity agencies have already branded the opt-in move ludicrous and, if the clauses are passed, it could lead to a situation where charities are the only organisations to have to gain explicit consent for marketing data while other sectors just need to gain what is termed “unambiguous consent”.

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