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Many charities legitimately collect unwanted items of clothing to raise funds for their cause. Some charities work with a commercial organisation to collect on their behalf. It is generally necessary to seek a licence before conducting a house to house collection for a charitable purpose.

Concerns have been raised about some organisations which appear to be collecting clothing for a charitable cause but are not in fact doing so. Some people feel that they have been misled by charity bags, typically being distributed through letterboxes. Another problem is the theft of clothing bags.

The Fundraising Regulator has issued advice on how to ensure donations go to a genuine charity. Its Code of Fundraising Practice sets out the standards expected of all charitable fundraising organisations across the UK. It requires organisations operating house to house bag collections for charitable purposes not to deliver bags to a property that that displays a sticker or sign which includes the words ‘no charity bags’, ‘no clothing bags’ or words to that effect.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It applies the Advertising Codes, which are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP).

In March 2017, the CAP issued new guidance instructing private companies and individuals behind house to house charitable collection bags to ensure that they are “upfront and clear” with consumers about the nature of the service they provide. CAP said that it had issued guidance following a review of potentially misleading advertising practices by private door-to-door collection companies. In addition, the guidance was a response to an ASA ruling the previous year which found that a company’s charity collection bag did not make sufficiently clear the commercial nature of its business.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committees, said that “No-one should feel duped into thinking they are donating directly to a charity if that’s not the case”.

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