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Consumer Law: Charity muggers face fines for hassling shoppers

Many people find charity fundraisers who stop passers-by in the street to get them to sign-up to direct debits can be a nuisance, but Wolverhampton city council has decided to tackle the problem with threats of court action and fines.

Unwilling to tolerate 'charity muggers', the council introduced byelaws in February 2010 which expressly forbid 'chuggers' from operating in the city centre. And now they have warned fundraising companies that they will face court action and fines of up to £500 if they disobey.

After asking Wolverhampton residents what they thought about charity fundraisers on Twitter, the council were "swamped with complaints".

The City Council Leader Councillor Roger Lawrence said: "We're acting on evidence that, if unchecked, nuisance chuggers could deter visitors to the city centre. I'm determined this will not be the case, especially in the run up to Christmas."

Other cities are also taking action against charity fundraisers. In Edinburgh, they have been banned from Princes Street, the main shopping street, and in Chorley, Lancashire, chuggers are only allowed to operate two days each week.

Manchester's policy ensures that only a limited number of fundraisers may work in designated areas in the city centre, three days a week between specified hours.

The organisation Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) attempts to mediate between councils and charities by setting up such agreements as the one in place in Manchester. They set up a successful scheme in Leeds in 2008, and since then the council state that chugging has not been a problem.

The PFRA has a Code of Fundraising, introduced in August 2011, which chuggers must abide by that includes a 'three-step rule'. This ensures that fundraisers only take a maximum of three steps towards a person to engage them, three steps backwards if eye contact has been made but the person has not yet stopped, and three steps alongside a person who is talking but not stopping.

Other rules fundraisers must adhere to include not standing within three metres of a cashpoint, not taking advantage of drunk people and not obstructing people's paths.

Related links:
Read more on the story (Yahoo! News)
Read about tax relief on charity donations (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors (FindLaw)