Stricter rules for St Albans ‘chuggers’

AGGRESSIVE tactics used by face-to-face charity fundraisers could be curbed thanks to strict new rules which came into force last week.

Chuggers or charity muggers, so-called for pestering members of the public for donations, are often seen following shoppers in St Albans city centre usually between Boots and BHS.

But as part of the crackdown, introduced by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), nuisance collectors are now being advised not to chase a person more than three steps down the street.

They will also be penalised if they stand within three metres of a shop doorway, cash machine, pedestrian crossing or station entrance.

Nick Henry, PFRA’s head of standards, said: “The point of the rule is to stop people being followed, so how many steps they take towards someone is much less of an issue. We think this is a more common sense version of the rule and means fundraisers don’t need to perform an intricate ‘chugger waltz’.”

In addition, workers are barred from signing anyone up to a direct debit unable to give informed consent due to illness, disability or drink and drugs, and must not approach a person who is working, such as tour guides or newspaper vendors.

And if they breach the guidelines the charity they represent will be issued with a number of penalty points depending on the severity of the violation.

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After a threshold of 1,000 points is reached the fundraising organisation will be fined at a rate of �1 per point.

To ensure collectors comply with the guidelines, which have been trialled for one year, mystery shopping trips and spot checks will be carried out.

Charles Turner, legal services manager at St Albans district council, said: “The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association is a charity-led membership body that self-regulates all forms of direct debit face-to-face fundraising.

“We note the new rules that PFRA is asking its members to follow. We understand that the new rules are expected to work with the PFRA’s code of practice to regulate the behaviour of the street fundraisers.”

Under current legislation chuggers raising cash on the streets must abide by the council’s own regulations and apply to them for a licence. Although the council has no legal powers to regulate direct debit fundraisers, they ask them to enter into a voluntary code of practice, which includes only visiting the city once per month and not collecting on market days.