The boss of one of the UK’s largest charity telemarketing agencies has blamed GDPR for a collapse in the company’s business after thrashing out a deal to pay off debts of more than £650,000.
Ben Smith, joint managing director at telephone fundraising agency Listen, made the claim after the firm agreed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) following a “significant corporate restructure”.
The workforce has fallen from 332 in March 2015 to 106.
According to documents filed with Companies House, the company owes £319,000 to HMRC, £325,000 to the leasing company Stadium Investments and £7,000 to Listen’s parent company, TCLLH. The CVA will allow the business to manage repayment of its debts over an extended period of time and continue trading.
Speaking to Third Sector, Smith said: “It has undoubtedly been a challenging fundraising marketplace in recent years and the GDPR has proved to have had even more of an impact than either Listen or our clients predicted.
“We have to recognise that the days of high-volume traditional telephone fundraising are gone in the UK and we must adapt to becoming a smaller and more diverse business.”
It is not the first time the company has blamed increased regulation for a fall in business. Back in 2017, it cited the clampdown on charities – sparked by the furore surrounding the death of fundraiser Olive Cooke – when it went from making a profit of £1m to a loss of £200,000.
However, a Mail on Sunday investigation in 2015 accused the agency of using high-pressure fundraising techniques; a claim that was later upheld by the charity regulator.
Smith insisted that Listen now has a strong client base and that it had never had a better fundraising performance or lower complaint levels.
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