One of the UK's leading social entrepreneurs has accused BT of "bullyboy tactics" over the launch of a website that collects charity donations free of charge.
'Barefoot' entrepreneur Robert Ashton - author of the best-selling business guide How to be a Social Entrepreneur - complains that by launching the site, MyDonate (opens in new tab), BT is using its financial might to muscle in on a niche currently occupied by social enterprise JustGiving.com.
JustGiving.com makes a small charge for collecting donations, whereas MyDonate only passes on to charities the charges from credit and debit card companies.
"It's a great shame that with all the technology and buckets of cash at BT's disposal they choose to compete with an existing charity service rather than adding something of real value to the Third Sector and creating something totally new of their own," said Ashton.
"We need social enterprises to behave entrepreneurially: that's how philanthropy can grow. What incentive is there for others to follow the brave example of the team behind JustGiving?" the sole trader added.
"They created a new concept, they did the marketing legwork and they finally set it up to see it deliver them a return. JustGiving has made a colossal difference to the UK fundraising landscape and now, just as soon as things come good, someone comes along and tries to price them out of the market they've just created."
"Undeniably, increasing the amount of money available for charities is a good thing," said Mr Ashton, "but with the financial muscle available to BT they could have created something entirely new that could have grown into something even more beneficial to the charity sector."
"BT should stand for Brilliant Thinking, not Bullyboy Tactics!" said Ashton.
BT is obliged to invest at least one per cent of its pre-tax profits in community and environmental programmes, and last year spent around £26 million.
Ian Livingston, BT Group CEO, said he hoped that MyDonate would increase the amount of money being donated online. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, online donations represented just seven per cent of the £10.6 billion donated to charities in the UK last year.