Trust is a fragile thing. It’s very easy and quick to break, very hard and slow to mend.

The allegation in the Sun newspaper earlier this month, that well-respected and trusted charity Age UK earned a secretly-negotiated and paid commission for every elderly person who signed up for an E.ON tariff they recommended, has been confirmed by Age UKs anonymous spokeswoman. However she says the amount E.ON paid, hidden from her customers, was not £41 but only £10, leaving the very grubby principle, or lack of any, still the same.

People, justifiably, don’t expect to be able to trust large companies, and they don’t expect to be able to trust celebrity endorsements Most do however expect to be able to trust that recommendations from a charity working to help the vulnerable are honest ones and not contaminated by what are fundamentally bribes from businesses they endorse. In this respect Age UK have broken trust, and will need to work long and hard to mend it. Giving every penny of the dirty money from E.ON back to the claimed 150,000 customer who trusted them, and admitting the wrongdoing that everyone except the charity and energy company knows was done should be the minimum as the first step. After all they haven’t just let themselves down with their grubby deal but damaged the reputation of the charity sector.

Over the next few months we will expect to hear what Ofgem, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Standards Board think of it all, but it probably doesn’t matter. The more important marketplace jury have already reached their verdict.

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