NEWS19 March 2019

Vote Leave fined £40,000 for unsolicited Brexit texts

Brexit Mobile News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Vote Leave £40,000 for sending unsolicited text messages ahead of the EU referendum in 2016.

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The official campaign group in favour of Brexit sent 196,154 text messages to members of the public to promote the aims of its campaign without obtaining consent, an ICO investigation found.

Most of the text messages also contained a link to the Vote Leave website.

Vote Leave was unable to prove to the ICO that people who had been sent messages had given their consent to receive them, as required by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).

The organisation claimed that it obtained contact details from enquiries through its website, text message responses to promotional leaflets, and entrants to a football competition, but it wasn’t able to provide evidence of this. It said it deleted evidence of the consent, the phone numbers and the messages sent and received.

Steve Eckersley, director of investigations at the ICO, said: “Direct marketing is not just about selling products and services, it’s also about promoting an organisation’s aims and ideals. Political campaigns and parties, like any other organisations, have to comply with the law.”

The fine is part of the ICO’s ongoing investigation on the use of data for political purposes. Last month, the regulator fined Brexit-supporting campaign group Leave.EU and Arron Banks’ insurance company Eldon Insurance for ‘serious breaches’ of electronic marketing laws.