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Charity spammed public with 460,000 texts over a 10-day period


Organisations must ensure they have valid consent to contact recipients

Charities have been warned about their legal obligations after an English charity sent 460,000 unsolicited texts over a 10-day period.

Penny Appeal, based in Wakefield, was rebuked by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and ordered to stop the unsolicited marketing technique.

The texts were sent between April and May 2022 to coincide with Ramadan, encouraging people on a daily basis to donate to the charity’s appeals.

This resulted in 354 complaints to the ICO and the Mobile UK’s Spam Reporting Service. Complainants reported their requests to opt out were ignored and described the texts as “intrusive”, “unwanted,” and often received late at night.

The ICO’s investigation found that the charity had created a new database where requests to opt out were not recorded and messages were sent to anyone who had interacted with the charity in the last five years.

The regulator has been engaging with Penny Appeal since 2020, after receiving complaints about a similar marketing campaign.

Following the ICO’s intervention, the charity committed to improving its compliance with direct marketing law. However, further complaints revealed they were still sending illegal marketing texts.

While still under investigation, Penny Appeal sent further spam texts over Ramadan, which led to even more complaints.

The ICO has now issued an Enforcement Notice, ordering Penny Appeal to stop sending marketing communications without consent within 30 days.

Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said: “Penny Appeal inundated people with text messages, with no regard for their consent or their right to opt out. This is unacceptable and we will act decisively to protect the public from unsolicited marketing texts.

"Despite providing advice and guidance to improve this charity’s compliance we were left with no choice but to take enforcement action in order to protect the public.

“We are here to support charities in their missions to responsibly raise funds for good causes and help people in need.

"We also appreciate that small charities may need a helping hand when it comes to understanding the law. However, this is not an excuse for breaking it.

"All organisations sending direct marketing messages are responsible for ensuring they have valid consent to contact every recipient.”

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “The Fundraising Regulator supports the ICO’s decision which echoes an investigation into the same issue that the Fundraising Regulator completed in 2022.

"While communicating with donors via text can be an effective tool for charities, it is vital that those charities abide by not only the law, but also the Code of Fundraising Practice – which stipulates that fundraising must be open, honest, legal, and respectful.” 



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