Chuggers face spot checks to enforce new regulations

Charity fundraisers are banned from following a person for more than three steps
Charity fundraisers are banned from following a person for more than three steps
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SPOT checks are to be carried out on Capital streets in a bid to crackdown on nuisance street fundraisers.

New rules which come into effect today ban charity workers from following a person for more than three steps, standing within three metres of a shop doorway or cashpoint, and signing up people by direct debit if they are drunk.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) also said the fundraisers – sometimes referred to as charity muggers or “chuggers” – must leave people alone when clearly asked to do so.

While the new rules and spot checks have been welcomed, there have also been calls for more stringent action to deal with a problem which has long drawn complaints.

Graham Birse, of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is definitely overdue. Edinburgh seems to be a magnet for street fundraising, whether official or unofficial.

“The important thing about regulation is how it is enforced and we would be looking for the authorities, the council wardens and the police to make sure that the network of charity fundraisers know that they need to abide absolutely by these guidelines and to take appropriate action if they do not.”

Councillor Iain Whyte, Conservative group member for Inverleith, said he had been approached by a number of fed-up traders and residents on the matter.

He said: “My main complaint is that members of the public feel harassed and pressured by it and I certainly know that there were constituents who told me they felt pressured into stopping when they did not want to hear a sales pitch. Some were made to feel guilty if they did not want to give.

“It strikes me that they have taken a long, long time to get this process in place. Hopefully it’s a process that will have some teeth.”

Josh Miller, joint managing director of Charlie Miller Hairdressing and member of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Retail Policy Group, broadly welcomed the new rules. He said: “The risk is if people come in and do not enjoy the experience – that’s the concern. If people think, ‘I do not want to go down Princes Street because I am going to get harassed’ then that’s definitely a bad thing.

“I’m delighted to see that it is industry that’s behind this development. It certainly looks like it will make street fundraising more professional and better organised.”

Fundraising organisations that break the rules will rack up a series of penalty points that will then be converted into a fine.

When a fundraising organisation’s points tally exceeds 1000 points, that total is converted to a fine on the basis of £1 per point.

PFRA will monitor compliance through a mystery shopping programme and spot checks by its compliance staff.

In November last year, the Evening News revealed how chuggers working for homeless charity Shelter boarded a city-bound bus to drum up

business.

Passengers on a First Bus from East Lothian into Edinburgh complained after they were approached to sign up for a direct debit that would give Shelter money each month.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com