On 6 July 2017 the new Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) was launched.

The Fundraising Regulator added new requirements to the Code of Fundraising Practice a week ahead of the launch to support the new service.

The FPS allows members of the public to specify charities registered in England and Wales and higher education institutions (which are exempt from the requirement to register with the Commission) from which they no longer wish to receive direct marketing communications. It was one of the recommendations made in the Etherington Review (for more information about the Etherington Review and other developments in relation to fundraising law, please request a copy of our guide to changes in fundraising law and regulation, which was published in June 2017).

Individuals must select specific charities and also choose the specific forms of communication that they wish to stop: emails, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages. Requests can be submitted online or by calling the helpline administered by the Fundraising Regulator. The service allows up to three charities to be identified in any one request. It is not possible to opt to supress all forms of communication from all charities (as was originally proposed). However, members of the public may make as many requests as they wish, so there is no upper limit to the number of charities that an individual may specify.

The changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice, which came into effect on 29 June 2017, are intended to support the introduction of the FPS. The Code now states that that charities must stop sending direct marketing communications (or not start to process personal data for that purpose) as soon as reasonably practicable (and no later than 28 days) after receiving a notice (via the FPS or otherwise) that an individual no longer wishes to receive those communications from them. It also states that charities must notify third parties engaged for fundraising purposes of any request received from an individual for direct marketing communications to cease, and require those third parties to comply.

Suzanne McCarthy (Chair of the Fundraising Regulator’s Standards Committee) commented on the introduction of the changes to the Code, saying: “It is important that members of the public have confidence that charities will respect their communication preferences. The changes made to the Code today support the introduction of the new FPS and require all charities to stop sending direct marketing communications on receipt of a request made through the service.”

Although the Fundraising Regulator cannot issue fines, there are still likely to be significant consequences if charities fail to comply with requests made via the FPS. If an individual continues to receive direct marketing 28 days after submitting a request for them to cease they may notify the Fundraising Regulator, who will contact the charity directly. If the communications continue after this, then an individual may make a complaint using the online complaint form.

The Fundraising Regulator may take action in response to a complaint where there has been a breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice. There will be a breach if a charity fails to stop sending direct marketing communications to individuals where a request is made through the FPS. Action taken could include sending the charity a notice to stop processing data for direct marketing purposes (under section 11 of the Data Protection Act 1984), which in turn could result in intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office. The ICO does have the power to issue fines, and has recently imposed significant fines on charities for data protection breaches. It is also important to remember that when the new GDPR comes into force next year the maximum fines will be significantly increased.

The Fundraising Regulator has published summary guidance for charities on the new FPS. There is also additional information and FAQs available on the Regulator’s website.