With charities still reeling from the controversy over their bombardment marketing methods, an investigation by the sector’s regulator has exposed how hundreds of charities could unwittingly be using illegally obtained data to fuel their campaigns.
The claims centre on a Fundraising Standards Board probe sparked by a single complaint about a call made by Insight CCI on behalf of Breast Cancer Campaign. The complainant, whose landline was registered on the Telephone Preference Service, demanded to know how the charity had got hold of the number.
The FRSB investigation discovered that the complainant’s details had been provided by Indian firm Dynaxon IT Services, via the list broker PDV.
Dynaxon compiled the list after carrying out a telephone lifestyle survey, to create “opt in” leads for marketing. It is not known how many charities or businesses have used this database, although it could run into many hundreds.
On listening to the partial call recording of the lifestyle survey provided by Dynaxon, the FRSB identified potential breaches data and electronic marketing laws, all of which have been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The FRSB also got its hands on a copy of the fundraising call, during which the agent claimed the breast cancer survival rate of 85% was “mainly due” to Breast Cancer Campaign’s breast tissue banks. The FRSB said this statement could not be substantiated.
The fundraiser also neglected to ask the complainant if they consented to being contacted at that time, constituting another breach of the code.
However, after deciding to make a stand, the complainant was given the runaround, with Breast Cancer Campaign referring them to Insight CCI and then on to the list broker PDV, before they eventually contacted the FRSB.
The FRSB blasted Breast Cancer Campaign for not taking responsibility for the campaign that was delivered in its name, although both the charity and Insight CCI now claim to be putting their houses in order.
FRSB chair Colin Lloyd – who is stepping down this summer – said: “The chain of data collection, control, processing and usage in this case highlights the importance of ensuring that data used for telephone fundraising fully meets the requirements of the IoF Code, as well as Data Protection and Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations.”
However, one industry insider said: “Most consumers are clueless about who to complain to, and even if they do know, hardly any would bother as it’s too much of a palaver. The FRSB knows this case is just the tip of the iceberg; the question is, are they doing enough to tackle what everyone knows are widespread and deep-rooted dodgy data practices?”
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