Labour broke privacy rules with phone campaign

Labour breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated phone calls to almost half a million people without their consent, the Information Commissioner's Office ruled today.

The calls, featuring a recorded message from Coronation Street actress Liz Dawn, were targeted at around 495,000 people in areas with strong Labour support to encourage them to turn out to vote in the local and European elections last June.



Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said calls of this type can cause "annoyance and disruption" to those receiving them.



He ordered Labour to ensure that no further automated direct marketing calls are made without consent, warning that failure to comply would be a criminal offence which could lead to prosecution.



Labour had previously said it would stop automated calls of this kind after the Commissioner received a complaint about the use of the Liz Dawn recording in 2007, said Mr Smith.



At the time of the 2009 elections, the Commissioner received further complaints from a member of the public and the Scottish National Party.



Labour confirmed that it had made the calls to approximately 495,000 recipients, in what were believed to be Labour supporting areas, and that the majority of numbers were obtained using commercially-purchased lists.



Mr Smith said: "The Information Commissioner's Office has consistently made clear that the promotion of a political party counts as marketing. We have previously issued detailed guidance to all major political parties on this subject.



"The Labour Party has breached privacy rules by making automated marketing calls to individuals who have not consented to receiving such calls.



"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.



"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 Labour Party has 28 days to appeal against the enforcement notice under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which were introduced by the Labour Government in 2003.



A Labour Party spokesman said: "The Labour Party considered advice from the Information Commissioner's Office prior to making these calls and believed that we had abided by this advice.



"We will now examine this decision in detail. The Labour Party has always sought to abide by the Information Commission guidelines and will continue to do so in the future."





Last year's complaint was lodged with the Commissioner by Scottish National Party MSP Joe Fitzpatrick.



He today said that concerns were first raised over Labour's use of automated calls in 2005, but no enforcement notice was issued until today. Notices have been issued against the Conservatives and SNP in 2005 and the Liberal Democrats in 2008.



Mr Fitzpatrick said: "I welcome this belated action to protect voters in their homes but there are real questions to be answered over how the Commissioner has applied the rules.



"The Information Commissioner must explain why it has taken him five years to act over dodgy phone calls from Labour but he has not applied the same restraint to other political parties.



"The SNP sought guarantees from the Information Commission in 2005 that all parties would be treated as the SNP were treated. However it seems while the SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were served enforcement notices immediately Labour has been allowed an ill-fated second chance.



"The Information Commissioner must also explain why these calls were not stopped immediately rather than allowing half a million people to be bothered by a desperate Labour party."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?