Getting messages to voters is important in a healthy democracy, and in order to do this, political parties, referendum campaigners and candidates will campaign by using a variety of ways to communicate with you. However, they must follow the law when doing so; this includes how and when they contact you and how they handle any personal information that they collect and hold about you.

Can a political campaign contact me with marketing?

Political parties promote their political views through their campaigns and this is marketing. Candidates, employees and volunteers working for the political party or candidate might contact you in different ways to promote themselves; however they're required to comply with the law when doing so. 

The different methods they might use to contact you are:

Post personally addressed to you

This method may be used to contact you unless you have asked the organisation not to write to you or not to send you marketing material by post. In addition, electoral law will set out whether a political party, candidate or referendum campaigner has the right to send a single election or referendum mailing by Freepost. This specific right applies even if you have asked the organisation not to contact you.

Email/text and other messages to mobile phones/voicemail

This method may be used to contact you where you have consented to contact of that sort from the organisation for those purposes.

Fax

This method may be used to contact you where you have consented to contact of that sort from the organisation for those purposes.

Phone calls

This method may be used to contact you unless the organisation has grounds for believing you would not want it to contact you, such as if you have registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Automated phone calls

This method may be used to contact you where you have specifically consented to contact of this sort from the organisation for those purposes.

In every method of marketing, the organisation must normally identify itself and provide contact details to allow you to contact it and easily opt out of unwanted direct marketing. Electoral law also requires specific details to appear on election material.

You may also receive leaflet-drops and mailings which are unaddressed, or addressed merely to ‘the occupier’. As these are not personally addressed to you, the marketing rules do not apply.

Can a political campaign carry out market research?

A political campaign can conduct genuine research in the same way professional market research companies do to help inform their views and create policies. However, communications claiming to be for research that are in reality intended to gain your support, now or at some point in the future,  are marketing and may need your specific consent.

Can a political campaign use my contact details for marketing if I gave them out for constituency casework?

Elected representatives and their parties should not use your contact details for direct marketing if they got them when carrying out constituency casework, unless they are sure you would expect this type of contact from them and would not object.

They will need your specific consent to send marketing emails and text messages or make automated marketing calls to you.

What happens if my elected representative changes to a different political party?

If  your MP changes to a different political party and there is any doubt as to whether you would expect or would be happy to be contacted in connection with the new party, your MP should seek your consent to continue to use your data for marketing purposes. 

Can I do anything to help myself?

You have rights when organisations handle your personal information. When organisations collect your information, they should usually be open about why they are collecting it, only use it in a reasonable way that you would expect, and shouldn't use it in way that is unfair to you.

When giving an organisation your personal details, ask yourself:

  • who is collecting the information?
  • is it necessary?
  • what will be done with it?
  • what are the consequences for me?

Check an organisation’s privacy notice or terms and conditions to find out what it intends to do with your information. A privacy notice, sometimes called a privacy policy or statement, should tell you who is collecting your information, what it is going to be used for, and whether it will be shared with other organisations.

If it is not clear what the organisation is going to do, ask them before you give any personal information, especially if it is sensitive. Organisations may want to use your personal information to send you marketing or pass your details to other companies. They should make this clear to you, give you clear choices and ask for your consent to do this, where appropriate.

If you have concerns about how an organisation has handled your information, you should firstly raise your concern with them. If the organisation has been unable, or unwilling, to resolve your concern, you can raise the matter with us.

How can I stop political parties and other organisations from sending me marketing? 

You have an absolute right under the Data Protection Act to object to marketing from any organisation and the processing of your information for direct purposes. However, a candidate, political party or referendum campaigner does have a right to send a Freepost mailing, as mentioned above.

You should write to them by letter or email to tell them to stop using your personal information to send you marketing. When they receive your request they must stop sending marketing to you as soon as they can.

A suggested letter you can send to an organisation can be found here.

Sometimes a constituency party, local association or local campaign group has a separate legal identity from its national organisation. This means if you send a request to one of them to stop marketing you it will not automatically apply to the others. 

There's advice on the ICO's website about what to do if you're receiving nuisance marketing calls, spam texts or junk mail.  

The electoral register 

Political parties and candidates are entitled to receive a copy of the full electoral register. They and those who campaign for or work with them must treat it with great care and ensure it is kept securely. The law allows them to use the electoral register to contact you to promote their political campaign, unless they know you object to direct marketing. 

This has made me concerned about personal details I’ve given to other organisations, what should I do?

You have the right to get a copy of the information that is held about you. This is known as a subject access request. This right of subject access means that you can make a request under the Data Protection Act to any organisation processing your personal data.

We have guidance on how to make a subject access request for a copy of the information held about you.