Welcome given to tighter controls on ‘chugger’ pests

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TIGHTER controls on how charity collectors operate on the high street have been welcomed.

The Public Funding Regulatory Association has introduced a new best practice regime for street collectors – known as chuggers – following a year-long trial.

Chuggers – short for charity muggers – will have to abide by new rules when operating on the high street and organisations face a fine if the new regulations are not followed.

It comes after Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson called for tighter controls on chuggers operating in the high street – as reported in The News.

Street collectors must not follow a person for more than three steps, or stand within three metres of a shop doorway, cashpoint, pedestrian crossing or station entrance.

They cannot sign anyone up to direct debit if they are unable to give informed consent through illness, disability, or drink and drugs, and cannot approach members of the public who are working.

Not following the rules will lead to points penalties of 20, 50 or 100 depending on the severity of the breach and organisations will be fined £1 per point if they cross a threshold of 1,000 points.

The new regulations will be monitored by a dedicated PFRA team.

Penalties will be issued to organisations if breaches are reported by PFRA staff members, official ‘mystery shoppers’, local authority officers, town centre managers and other authorised staff working for councils.

Welcoming the move, Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘A lot of people feel intimidated and threatened by them.

‘Anything that at long last attempts to regulate them properly is welcome.

‘Whether it will have the desired effect will depend on how they are going to be enforced. Is it a matter for the police to enforce it?

‘Or will the local authority be asked to provide a service to enforce it?

‘I have had people come to me that have felt threatened by collectors that get aggressive, and that’s really unfair.’

Mr Hancock added that he would like to see a phone line launched – similar to Crimestoppers – where members of the public can report incidents where they feel they have been harassed by a chugger.