The UK consumer watchdog group Which? has warned British consumers to look out for charity Christmas card cons in the high street, amid concerns that publishers and retailers are making excess profits out of cards which give a pittance to good causes.
The group's research suggests that the public are unaware of what is going on. Some 84 percent of 1,060 people it surveyed in a professional poll think that more than 40 percent of the price of charity Christmas cards should be donated to good causes.
But, in reality, this can be as low as just 4 per cent, according to the Charities Advisory Trust. The average is around 10 per cent, with enormous variables.
Analysts say that Harrods, Cards Galore and Next are the most miserly, donating on average less than 10 percent of the price from all charity packs. John Lewis also has a large proportion of packs with donations of less than 10 percent.
However, other outlets are far more generous. The most charitable is Waterstone's bookstore, which donates 50 percent of the price of certain packs of cards to Unicef, though purchasers are advised to check carefully.
Neil Fowler, editor of Which?, declared today: "Many of us buy charity Christmas cards for altruistic reasons, but when as little as 4 percent goes to a good cause, we're actually donating money to the retailer.
"If you really want to make a difference, buy directly from the charity or its own shops - or if you do buy from another retailer, make sure you check the small print."
Fair Trade campaigners point out that it is far better to buy cards and gifts directly from organisations that ensure the benefits go to producers, and to bypass big stores for local producers and those that put the planet and people before profits.