Those plagued by 'nuisance' phone calls from charities asking for donations will be able to put a total block on them from 2017 under new plans announced by the Fundraising Regulator.
You'll be able to stop fundraising calls, texts, emails and post from any charity that spends at least £100,000/year on seeking donations by registering with the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS). You can either block all such charities at once or specify particular charities you don't want to hear from.
It's likely the system will also apply to lotteries and raffles, as they too are regarded as fundraising organisations.
The regulator says the FPS will work alongside the existing Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and Mail Preference Service (MPS) run by the Direct Marketing Association, meaning you can sign up for all three.
The move is aimed at addressing the "lack of control" many feel over the frequency and way in which they're approached by fundraisers, the regulator added. It comes after media claims that some vulnerable and elderly people, including those with dementia, are "hounded" by dozens of charity calls each week.
To see more on how to protect yourself from nuisance calls and junk mail, see our Stop Cold Callers Guide.
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How will the FPS work?
These are just proposals from the regulator at the moment, so we don't know exactly when it will launch (though it's likely to be next year).
However according to plans published on the regulator's website you'll be able to log on to a new Fundraising Preference Service website and press a single button which will immediately block all charities that spend above the limit from contacting you to ask for money.
Alternatively you'll be able to select certain charities you no longer want to hear from, while still allowing others to contact you.
There will also be a registration phone line for those unable or unwilling to sign up via the internet.
Once signed up, you'll stay on the register for two years before having to re-register your preferences. You'll receive a reminder three months before your preferences expire.
If you donate to a charity while it's blocked from contacting you, that charity will have the right to 'check in' with you and see if you're now happy to hear from it.
However you won't be able to sign up vulnerable friends or relatives, even if they are receiving lots of fundraising calls, unless you have power of attorney (the legal right to make decisions on their behalf – see our Power of Attorney guide for more on this).
The FPS will be funded by charities themselves, with those that spend more on fundraising contributing more towards the service.
What if I'm already signed up to the TPS and MPS – will I need to sign up to this too?
There'll be quite a lot of overlap between the FPS and the existing TPS and MPS schemes, which already let you opt out of cold calls and junk mail, and the Fundraising Regulator says the FPS will probably "signpost" users towards the TPS and MPS where appropriate.
But signing up to the FPS can ensure there's a total block on spam from charities.
Currently charities can still call you even if you're registered with the TPS, or send you mail even if you're registered with the MPS, if they have "overriding consent" – for example, if you've explicitly given them permission to contact you.
Signing up to the FPS will end that overriding consent and mean they can no longer contact you for any reason. So if you want to put a stop to as many unsolicited tests, emails, calls and pieces of junk mail as possible, it'll be best to sign up to all three opt-out services.