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Bogus charity clothing collections:
Warning by a district council's licensing department

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Source of the article

The brief article below was published in late 2002, and is taken from the official magazine of a shire district council (England). The article was produced by the Council's licensing department.

The magazine is published several times a year, and is distributed to every household in the District.

Copy of the Council's article


Watch out for bogus charities

The District Council is warning residents to beware of bogus charities that are operating in the area.  Officers have received reports of unlicensed businesses posting flyers through the doors of homes in xxxxxxxxx, asking for donations of clothes and other unwanted items.  Anyone in doubt about whether a charity appeal is genuine or not should contact the council on 01xxx xxxxxx.

Comments by CharityBags on the article

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The good news

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The 'bad' news

1.  We feel the use of the phrase "unlicensed businesses" in the article is unfortunate :

2.  Enforcement - More importantly, the licensing department hasn't mentioned that they have powers to :

And the Council isn't asking people to report suspicious collections to them.

An explanation - a can of worms

This failure to mention enforcement in the article puzzled us.  So we contacted the Council - and we seem to have found the explanation.  Read on . . .


On the Law on collections page we explain that the Local Government Act 1972 made an amendment to the House to House Collections Act 1939.  It transferred responsibility for the licensing of charitable house-to-house collections :

'Licensing' of charitable collections (like most licensing regimes) consists of two functions :

  1. the processing of applications for licences, and
  2. dealing with unlicensed (illegal) activities - including the use of enforcement, and prosecution (in this case, against unlicensed charitable collections).

However, the Council told us they had thought that 'licensing' only meant function '(1)' above.

So they'd assumed (incorrectly) that the police were still responsible for dealing with unlicensed collections (function '(2)' above).

Apparently, this misunderstanding had gone on for years.  The Council told us they'd been passing on details of any unlicensed collections to the police - expecting the police to take action.  In some cases the Council had 'helpfully' attached a photocopy of the 1939 Act.  It seems the police took no action - perhaps they realised it was the Council's responsibility.

We explained that the Council was incorrect.  They investigated and they agreed with us.  

The Council says it will deal with unlicensed collections in future.

The victims - genuine charities

The victims in all this are the genuine charities (like Cancer Research UK, the NSPCC and Oxfam) - which for 30 years have been losing out to bogus collectors locally.  We estimate that over £1 million extra could have been raised by these charities if the Council had acted correctly.