The Information Commissioner’s Office has exposed the abuse of telemarketing rules stretches far wider than the charity sector after revealing it had written to over 500 companies over concerns they were phoning people registered on the Telephone Preference Service.
The ICO’s fears have been revealed in written evidence – published late last week – to the Parliamentary committee investigating fundraising practices among UK charities.
Last summer it was revealed that the Institute of Fundraising’s own guidance on telemarketing was two years out of date; it endorsed a regulatory approach which was scrapped in 2013. But it now appears charities are just a small part of the problem.
The warnings were part of a much wider campaign targeting hundreds of organisations to remind them of their responsibilities when carrying out direct marketing activities. It is thought that most had attracted complaints about their adherence to the TPS dating back to 2013.
In his written evidence to MPs, Commissioner Christopher Graham also confirmed that four of the UK’s leading charities named and shamed by the Daily Mail for abusing TPS rules were targeted as part of the initiative.
The NSPCC and Macmillan Cancer Support have already been forced to fess up, but the ICO’s evidence shows Oxfam and the British Red Cross also received warnings. All four had denied any knowledge of the warnings when appearing in front of the commitee.
In total, eight charities were sent letters in March 2014, some 16 months before the Daily Mail article. The other four organisations were Christian Aid, the British Heart Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Barnardo’s.
The ICO had previously refused to name the charities it wrote to, as they are part of its ongoing investigation into the sector.
But the clampdown on the wider direct marketing sector is continuing at a pace. In November, the regulator revealed it is targeting more than 1,000 companies involved in buying and selling consumer names and numbers, demanding to know how they comply with the law.
The companies are all believed to play some role in the compiling and trading of lists of names and numbers used by cold callers. Failure to respond to the ICO letter could result in enforcement action.
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