The ICO is warning political campaigners to keep within the law after fining David Lammy MP £5,000 for making nuisance calls.         

Mr Lammy instigated 35,629 calls over two days, playing a recorded message that urged people to back his campaign to be named the Labour party candidate for London Mayor.

Calls that play a recorded message must only be made to people who have given the organisation their permission to receive this type of call.

The ICO investigation found Mr Lammy did not have such permission, and so had broken the rules set out in the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said:

“The rules apply to political groups canvassing for votes in the same way they apply to salespeople offering a discount on double glazing. If you want to call someone in this way, you must follow these rules. Mr Lammy did not, and that is why he has been fined.

“It’s not good enough to assume the people you’re contacting probably won’t mind. The law requires you to have permission before making calls with recorded messages. And if the law isn’t followed, the regulator will act.”

In the run up to the EU referendum and elections for the devolved assemblies and English local government, the ICO is reiterating its advice to political parties to take note and follow the rules.

The calls were made in August 2015 using contact details of party members provided by the Labour Party. Mr Lammy did not make the additional checks necessary to ensure he was able to contact the people with recorded messages.

Mr Graham said:

“Mr Lammy’s team should have known there were special controls in place around calls with recorded messages. Not only have we published detailed guidance on political campaigning on our website, but we have contacted political parties directly to remind them of the rules.”

Investigators also found that the company Mr Lammy used to make the calls on his behalf routinely advises prospective customers of their obligations.

This is not the first time the ICO has taken action over political campaigning that falls short of the law.

December 2015 – Telegraph Media Group fined £30,000 for sending hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative.

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.

Notes for editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
    • fairly and lawfully processed;
    • processed for limited purposes;
    • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
    • accurate and up to date;
    • not kept for longer than is necessary;
    • processed in line with your rights;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  5. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications. There are specific rules on:
    • Marketing calls made by a real person – you can not contact people who have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service or if they have asked you to stop calling.
    • Automated or recorded calls – you can only contact people who have specifically agreed to be contacted by you in this way.
    • Emails, texts and faxes – you can only contact people who have agreed to receive electronic marketing.
    We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.
  6. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  7. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  8. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline on 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.