EXETER shoppers are being warned that a team of street cash collectors in the city are not operating on the behalf of a registered charity.
Complaints have been lodged with the city council over the "aggressive" attitude taken by collectors with buckets in High Street who work for Positive Causes.
The council says the collectors do not have the necessary permit to collect – which are given out to prevent a clash of charity collections in the city.
It is now writing to the firm to say there have been complaints that they have been operating as a charity and if they do not seek a permit they could face prosecution.
One woman who was approached by the collectors told the Echo: "I thought they were very pushy and demanded money "for the children". They waved buckets and seemed to seek out the elderly. I have collected for the Royal British Legion and I know what I am talking about. I have complained to the council and they say they know about it and are taking action."
Robert Norley, the council's head of environmental health services said: "Essentially we have had complaints that they are quite aggressive and appear to be charity collectors with T-shirts and buckets but they are not a charity and do not have a permit to collect."
Mr Norley said that those selling periodicals, such as the Big Issue, did not need to have a permit and it appeared that Positive Causes did publish a periodical but did not make it clear if they were selling it.
He said: "There is some concern that they are operating, to all intents and purposes, as a charity. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who has been approached by them and we would warn people that they are not a charity."
Dean Sawyer, Devon area manager for Bristol based Positive Causes, admitted it was not a charity. He said: "I think the posh description of what we are is social enterprise. I have looked into this and it is a grey area. That is why we have a periodical, like Big Issue, because as such, and for freedom of speech, we do not need a permit to sell a periodical as long as we do not have a stand." He said Positive Causes had been a limited company for 18 months and aimed to give work to what he described as the "virtually unemployable" the homeless and those recovering from drug abuse.
"I have had experience of homelessness myself so I know what these young people have been through. I always use local people so the collectors in Exeter will be from the city."
He said that half the money collected went to the collector while the other half went to Positive Causes to cover the cost of the periodical and general expenses.
He said he would speak to collectors about their alleged aggressive approach.
"The thing is, Exeter is quite an affluent town so there are quite a few people out collecting and it is quite competitive. I will certainly ask them to tone it down."
On its website Positive Causes says: "We distribute a Positive Causes magazine, where the proceeds go to setting up activities and events for kids (under the age of 18), in the hope to tear them away from drink, drugs and causing criminal damage."