Charity apologieses as ‘chuggers’ target bus passengers

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CHARITY fundraisers have been criticised after it emerged “chuggers” working for a leading charity boarded a city-bound bus to drum up business.

Homeless charity Shelter has vowed to stop its fundraisers using the tactics after complaints from commuters.

But politicians have called for increased regulation and warned organisations not to put too much pressure on fundraisers.

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.

One commuter who was on the bus from Tranent to Edinburgh, who did not want to be named, said the workers were identifiable by their red Shelter clothes and paperwork, and were approaching passengers.

He added: “I couldn’t believe it. I know it’s fairly common on the street to be accosted by charities asking you for money, but public transport is taking it to a new level.”

Shelter Scotland’s director told the Evening News it was very much a one-off, and that it was viewed as “completely unacceptable” by bosses.

Graeme Brown also apologised to anyone targeted by the workers, sometimes referred to as charity muggers – or “chuggers”.

He said: “All our fundraisers are given strict guidelines within which they must operate and therefore we deeply regret that this has happened.

“We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who was approached in this way and give our assurances that we have already taken the appropriate steps to stop this from happening again.”

Fundraisers on behalf of Shelter and other charities, including Oxfam, do visit people’s homes in a bid to promote the direct debit facility, while workers are a common sight in city centres across the UK.

City centre Conservative councillor Joanna Mowat said: “We’re already in a position where many already push all acceptable boundaries and it could be that we need some kind of strict regulation on this.

“We’ve all seen them jump out at you on the street, but people can always walk on or say they are busy.

“What are you supposed to do on a bus? You’re a captive market, and that would make people feel very uncomfortable.”

Earlier this year, the city council took steps to tighten restrictions on chuggers, particularly in shopping areas.

A code of conduct was drawn up which, if broken, would see the workers thrown off their patch.

Other rules were set down, such as limiting the number of people in any one street.

No-one from First Bus was available for comment.