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May 17, 2016
A company which sent more than 500,000 texts urging people to support its campaign to leave the EU has been fined £50,000 by the ICO.
Better for the Country Ltd, best known for campaigning under the name Leave.EU, breached data protection rules by not having the consent of the people it sent text messages to.
Stephen Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said: “Political parties and campaign groups must follow the same rules as anyone else. That means they must have people’s permission before sending them text messages. Better for the Country did not have permission to send these messages. After considering all the options we decided that enforcement action was necessary”.
During an ICO investigation, Better for the Country said that they had obtained the list of phone numbers from a third party supplier.
The ICO reminds readers that organisations buying marketing lists from third parties must make rigorous checks to satisfy themselves that the third party has obtained the data fairly and lawfully and has the necessary consent.
In this case that meant that the individuals should have been given an explanation that clearly made them aware that they could receive promotional messages from the organisation’s political campaign.
Many of those who were sent texts by Better for the Country Ltd had consented to receiving messages about areas including leisure, home improvements and insurance; but there was no specification about EU politics.
This is not the first time the ICO has taken action over political campaigning that falls short of the law. In March 2016, the ICO fined David Lammy MP for making nuisance calls and in November 2013, in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum, the Better Together campaign signed an undertaking after sending 300,000 text messages to individuals without adequately checking whether they had consented to being contacted. To read the ICO’s press release in full and for a link to the monetary penalty notice, click here.