Advice & Regulation
17 April 2012
UNICEF - Upheld
The complainant felt that UNICEF UK had incorrectly defined them as a warm supporter in spite of the knowledge that a donation had never been made. The charity made this assumption based on the fact that the complainant had purchased some UNICEF Christmas cards between 2000 & 2004.
On this basis, the complainant believed that UNICEF UK decided to ignore their TPS registration. The complainant believed that the charity decided that its interests were of more importance than the complainant's clearly stated wishes and rights to privacy.
UNICEF UK contacted the complainant on four separate occasions, despite being told each time that the calls were unwelcome.
Two of the calls were made after UNICEF UK informed the Telephone Preference Service in writing that the calls would stop.
During the calls, the complainant alleged that the fundraisers did not tell the truth. During the third call for example, the fundraiser told the complainant's partner that someone from UNICEF UK had spoken to them and that a follow up call was requested. The complainant stated that this was impossible as they had not spoken to anyone. The complainant believed this indicated that UNICEF UK could not be trusted to tell the truth.
UNICEF UK claimed that the complainant did not "opt out" of telephone contact when they first purchased Christmas cards over a decade ago. The complainant refuted UNICEF UK'S version of events because they had been registered with the Telephone Preference Service since the 1990's. There appears to be no evidence supporting UNICEF UK's contention on this.
The complainant believed UNICEF UK'S actions were unacceptable and brought the charity sector as a whole into disrepute.
The complainant first raised their concerns directly with the Telephone Preference Service which then contacted UNICEF UK.
On the 4th of April 2011, UNICEF UK responded to the Telephone Preference Service. In this response, UNICEF UK quoted the following guidance which had been supplied by the Information Commissioner's Office:
"Where it may be unclear whether a donor wishes to be contacted via a particular medium due to collection of consent data in the past or subsequent to TPS registration, charities should make a judgement as to whether the donor would be likely to object to contact, based on the nature of the existing relationship."
UNICEF UK confirmed that because the complainant had supported the charity between October 2000 and November 2004, it made the judgement that a warm relationship had been established.
In the letter, UNICEF UK also confirmed that the complainant would be taken off the charity's calling lists with immediate effect.
In spite of this promise, the complainant received two further calls. On the 18th of April, the complainant wrote to UNICEF UK's Executive Director outlining what had been happening.
On the 28th of April and again on the 13th of May, UNICEF UK responded, apologising profusely for the fact that the complainant had received further calls and confirming that steps had been taken to rectify the situation.
On the 28th of May, the complainant sent a letter which expressed dissatisfaction at UNICEF UK's responses. The complainant also requested a cheque for £50 by way of compensation which would be shared with Macmillan Cancer Support & British Red Cross. UNICEF UK declined to fulfil this request and the complainant contacted the Fundraising Standards Board to intervene.
Stage TWO Assessment
The Fundraising Standards Board's Compliance Manager considered the complaint in the context of the Fundraising Promise and the Institute of Fundraising's Telephone Fundraising code of practice; in addition, a note of clarification regarding TPS restrictions drafted by a Senior Data Protection Practice Manager at the Information Commissioner's Office in March 2010 was also taken into account.
During the Stage 2 investigation, UNICEF UK informed the FRSB that the complainant would have filled out an order form when they first purchased the Christmas cards which provided several "opt out" options. According to the charity's records, the complainant "opted out" of receiving emails, Direct Mail, and opted out of Third Party contact; the charity had no record of the complainant opting out of telephone contact. Due to the fact that these forms are securely destroyed after a specific period, the complainant's order form was unavailable.
Overall, the FRSB's Compliance Manager concluded that UNICEF UK had made unacceptable mistakes on this occasion. However, it was also felt UNICEF UK had satisfactorily demonstrated that it had learnt from the case and had amended its practices as a consequence. For example, the charity confirmed that it had now put in place a robust system whereby objections to telephone contact were swiftly dealt with in-house and immediately forwarded to the appropriate telephone fundraising agency.
With that in mind, it was concluded by the FRSB at Stage 2 that no further action was required.
Resolution (s) Attempted
The FRSB's Compliance Manager sent an email to UNICEF UK which sought to obtain concrete reassurance that the charity had addressed and taken steps to prevent any repeat of the mistakes that the complainant had highlighted.
After considering the charity's response and having spoken in depth to its Supporter Services Manager, The FRSB's Compliance Manager sent a letter to the complainant which outlined what steps UNICEF UK had taken to ensure that complaints of this nature didn't arise again. The letter also confirmed that, after consideration, no further FRSB follow up action was required.
On the 4th of November, the complainant confirmed dissatisfaction at the conclusions reached at Stage 2 and the FRSB gave them the option of escalating the complaint to Stage 3 of the FRSB complaints process. The FRSB reiterated that having discussed the complaint with in detail with UNICEF UK it was satisfied that, at Stage 2, the charity had done everything possible to improve its practices.
The complainant affirmed that they wanted the case to be moved to Stage 3 on the 25th of November.
The FRSB updated UNICEF UK on the status of the complaint and it was agreed that the charity should send an additional response to the complainant through the FRSB which outlined in more specific detail the steps it had taken and the lessons it had learnt. The intention of the response was to clarify that UNICEF UK was in the process of reassessing its entire approach to telephone fundraising.
On the 3rd of January, the complainant wrote to the FRSB to confirm that UNICEF UK's final response had not gone any further in resolving the matter to their satisfaction and that they wanted the complaint to be considered by the FRSB Board.
The FRSB Board considered the complaint against Sections 3.2 and 3.5 of the Telephone Fundraising Code of Practice.
The Board also considered the complaint in the context of the Fundraising Promises "We are Honest & Open" and "We are Respectful".
The FRSB Board unanimously agreed to uphold the complaint after identifying the following breaches:
Section 3.5 of the Telephone Fundraising Code of Practice
It was noted that the complainant and their partner had made it clear during the course of each call they received that telephone contact from UNICEF UK was not welcome. The Board agreed that UNICEF UK had breached section 3.5 of the Telephone Fundraising Code not only because the charity had failed to ensure that the calls stopped but by also failing to suppress the complainant's telephone number as soon as the request had been received. It was agreed that this constituted a clear breach of Data Protection legislation.
Fundraising Promise – We Are Honest & Open
By failing to suppress the complainant's telephone number as promised, the Board agreed that UNICEF UK failed to "do what we say we are going to do;" this is one of the three key principles of the We are Honest & Open promise.
Fundraising Promise – We Are Respectful
By failing to act on the complainant's clear objections to telephone fundraising, the Board decided that UNICEF UK had not abided by the principle "if you tell us that you don't want us to contact you in a particular way, we will not do so."
The Board concluded that UNICEF UK had taken the complaint seriously, had gone some way in demonstrating that it had learnt from its mistakes and had corresponded with the complainant in a courteous and respectful way whilst handling the complaint.
However, the Board felt that additional evidence was needed in order to further reassure them that the breaches would not occur again. The Board therefore requested that UNICEF UK provide them with a report which outlined in detail the steps it had taken to address the problems.
The Chairman for this adjudication wrote to UNICEF UK requesting further evidence and reassurance that it had taken steps to make sure that no further breaches would occur.
UNICEF UK responded with a detailed report which outlined what it had put in place to improve its practices and also clarified what it had learnt from the complaint in a cultural and departmental context.
After reading through the report, the FRSB Board commended UNICEF UK for the wide-ranging action it had taken and praised the charity for being so open and transparent during the course of this complaint investigation.
It was agreed that no further remedial action was required due to the exemplary manner in which UNICEF UK had responded to the Board's additional enquiries and considering the robust procedures it had put into practice since the complainant raised their concerns with the charity.
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