Trust in charity doorstep collections of clothes is being undermined by bogus charity collectors and commercial collectors.
This is one of the findings of the Consumers Association, Which? in a survey that found that 30% of its members who failed to fill charity bags after leaflet drops said it was due to concern about the leaflets not being from genuine charities. Another finding was that many bags filled for genuine charities and left on doorsteps are then stolen by gangs working in unmarked vans before the charity van arrives, an aspect that costs one charity collection agent Clothes Aid an estimated £1 million a year.
Such theft is illegal and there have been a few prosecutions. Also if a collector poses as a charity the Charity Commission can act, but has no power over charities based abroad.
The problem however with commercial collectors who don’t steal bags and who don’t pass themselves off as charities is that they are doing nothing illegal by selling the clothes they collect and pocketing the money that donors believe is going to charity.
Which? has advised its members to check out the charity numbers given out by collectors by making contact with the Charity Commission (www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities or 0845 300 0218) and, if a commercial collector their records at Companies House (www.companies-house.gov.uk) .
In one case publicised by Which? two companies collecting were found to have been dissolved, but still operating, which is illegal.