Putney & Wandsworth Residents Warned By Trading Standards Officers

Clothes collections aren't for charity

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Trading standards officers are warning residents to beware of misleading leaflets that are being put through their doors asking for clothes donations.

The leaflets request spare and unwanted clothes so that they can be distributed to needy people in the developing world.

Many people mistakenly believe that these leaflets are being circulated by charities. In reality, they are being  distributed by commercial firms that are collecting clothes in order to sell them.

The leaflets are not illegal and the firms are not breaking the law because they do not actually say they are collecting for charity. However trading standards officials are warning that the clear intention is to make people think they are charitable enterprises.

The Association of Charity Shops estimates that charities lose between £2.5 million and £3 million a year as a result of donations given to commercial companies by people who mistakenly think they are helping charitable good causes.

The council's spokesman on consumer protection Cllr Sarah McDermott said:
"The flyers are clearly intended to dupe people into thinking they are making a donation to a charitable cause. In fact the goods collected will end up being sold and the profits kept by the dishonest individuals behind the operation.

"There is nothing illegal about what these companies are getting up to, but these leaflets certainly do confuse people with ambiguous statements about 'helping others” or “families in need".

"Our advice is to bin these flyers in your recycling sacks, or at least be aware that whatever you give will not be used to support the work of charities."

Top tips for spotting a bogus charity collection:

· Does the sack or leaflet say the collection is for a registered charity? If so, what is the registered charity number – call 0845 3000 218 or visit the online register of charities at www.charitycommission.gov.uk to check it's genuine.

· Does the leaflet only give a registered company number? This just means that the organisation is registered with Companies House.

· Is the charity actually named? Be wary of wording that just says 'families in need' or 'sick children at Christmas'.

· Does the leaflet or bag give a phone number? The absence of a phone number may mean the collectors don't want to answer questions.

For more information about consumer protection issues call Wandsworth trading standards on (020) 8871 7720 or email tradingstandards@wandsworth.gov.uk Alternatively call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

September 3, 2010