Information Commissioner’s Office threatens prosecution if Labour persists with phone spam
The Labour Party has been hit with an enforcement notice by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for making repeated unsolicited marketing calls to around half a million people despite agreeing to halt the practice in 2007.
Commenting on the notice, David Smith, deputy commissioner at the ICO, said his organisation had made it clear to all the major political parties that promotion of this kind constituted marketing and the Labour Party had breached privacy rules by making automated marketing calls to people who had not consented to be contacted.
“The fact that the calls were targeted at what were believed to be Labour supporting areas confirmed our view that they were designed to promote the Labour Party’s electoral cause by encouraging Labour supporters to vote, ” said Smith. “Automated calls can cause annoyance and disruption which is why it is so important for organisations making such calls to gain the consent of individuals.”
The ICO issued the notice after complaints dating back to July 2007 from members of the public who reported receiving automated calls from the party. According to the ICO, Labour agreed to stop the calls but more complaints followed in June 2009 – from members of the public and the Scottish National Party – about automated calls relating to the local and European elections. The Labour party confirmed that around 495,000 recipients had been targeted with the latest round of calls and the names were obtained using commercial lists.
Under the terms of the ICO notice, the Labour Party must ensure that no further direct marketing calls are made without consumers’ consent or face potential prosecution. The party has 28 days to appeal the notice, the ICO said.
Earlier this month, the ICO warned that businesses that do not own up to data breaches will face tougher action than those that come forward of their own volition. “In just over two months a further 100 organisations have reported data security breaches to us,” said deputy commissioner David Smith. “Talking to us may of course result in regulatory action. However, organisations must act responsibly; those that try to cover up breaches which we subsequently become aware of are likely to face tougher regulatory sanctions.”
A recent investigation revealed that botched IT projects under the Labour Government have cost the British taxpayer in the region of £26 billion. An investigation by the Independent newspaper, found that British taxpayers were left saddled with a bill of more than £26 billion for computer systems that have either suffered severe delays, or run over budget, or that have been canceled altogether.