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ICO fines Telegraph Media Group for election day email campaign

The ICO has fined Telegraph Media Group £30,000 after it sent hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative.

The plea came in a letter from Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans, attached to the paper’s usual morning e-bulletin.

Subscribers had signed up to receive a daily e-bulletin, but by promoting an election campaign, the paper broke the rules around direct marketing. The ICO found that none of the subscribers had given specific consent to receive that kind of marketing, a requirement under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said the paper had been negligent when it decided to send the campaign letter as part of the legitimate daily email.

He said:

“People may well perceive the paper’s editorial content to have a political bias, but when The Telegraph emailed people directly, calling for them to vote for a political party, they crossed a line.”

In his letter, Mr Evans described the May 7 general election as the “most important since 1979.” He wrote: “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative.”

Mr Eckersley said:

“People signed up to The Telegraph’s email service so they could catch up on the news or find out about subjects they were interested in. They did not expect to be told who they should be voting for.”

The ICO accepted that Mr Evans’ letter was only added to the usual mailing after a last-minute instruction from the editorial team. Pressure to distribute it quickly meant there was not enough time to properly consider whether the appropriate permissions were in place. These circumstances, along with the small number of complaints (17), were factors when deciding the fine.

Mr Eckersley said:

“Regardless of the circumstances, this organisation fell short of the law and we have acted.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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, emails, texts and faxes;
  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

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.

  1. 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.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
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