The Telegraph Media Group has been hit with a £30,000 fine after the data regulator ruled that an email campaign sent on the day of the general election – which urged hundreds of thousands of readers to vote Conservative – broke the law.
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 Information Commissioner’s Office found that none of the subscribers had given specific consent to receive that kind of marketing, a requirement under the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations.
Although the fine is not the largest the ICO could have issued, it is the public shaming which is more powerful. 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, Evans described the May 7 general election as the “most important since 1979.” He wrote: “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative.”
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 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.
Eckersley added: “Regardless of the circumstances, this organisation fell short of the law and we have acted.”
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