Profiting from the poor and needy

Merton residents should be aware of commercial companies that give the impression they are collecting clothes for charity when in fact they are sold for profit, warns Merton’s trading standards.

‘Clothing collection’ leaflets are dropped through letterboxes, with householders being asked to leave donations in a plastic bag by their front doors. Many of these leaflets are misleading residents to donate to commercial organisations rather than charities.

The Association of Charity Shops suggests that the potential value of donated clothing and other items ‘lost’ to bogus collectors amounts to over £1m per annum.

To help sort the genuine from the bogus, trading standards offer the following advice:
§ Check that the organiser’s full address and telephone number given on the leaflet.
§ Make sure the leaflet or collecting bag shows a registered charity number? A ‘ Company Reg. number’ is not the same thing.
§ It’s perfectly legal for a professional fundraising company to collect on behalf of a charity but it must say how much of the donation will actually go to the charity.
§ If an organisation is collecting on behalf of a charity then it should name the charity in any fundraising material. ‘Needy orphans’ and ‘Sick kids’ isn’t specific enough!
§ If you don’t recognise the charity or company involved then phone for further details before donating. If you still feel uneasy about the organisation then give directly to a local charity shop instead.

Ian Murrell, Commercial and Trading Standards Manager, said: “Please read any leaflets very carefully before you give anything away. You may be boosting a company’s profits rather than helping a worthwhile cause.”

For trading standards advice contact Merton Council on 020 8545 34018, email or visit

Notes to editor:
§ If you are unsure about an organisations charity number, please call the Charities Commission Helpline on 0870 333 0123 or visit to check an organisation’s charitable status.