The Conservative Party has escaped with just a slap on the wrist despite being found to have “crossed the line” by using illegal direct marketing techniques in its General Election campaign.
The move follows an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation into the party’s telemarketing campaign, sparked by a Channel 4 News undercover report into the Blue Telecoms call centre in South Wales.
The ICO found that the call centre, which hired up to 100 people on zero-hours contracts to contact thousands of potential voters in marginal seats across the UK, crossed the line from market research, which it does not regulate, to unlawful direct marketing.
However, the regulator stopped short of ordering enforcement action.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “We’ve warned the Conservative Party to get it right next time. The two sections we had concerns about were not enough to trigger formal enforcement action when considered along with the campaign as a whole. In addition, the results of the survey were not saved against any individual so they could not be targeted for future marketing.
“But we have been clear about what we expect in the future. We’ve warned the party that its campaigns must be rigorously checked for questions that fall outside the bounds of market research.
“And, while we did not resort to the full force of our regulatory powers in this case, we will continue to keep an eye on all political parties in the run-up to future elections and repeat our advice to them that they must comply with data protection and privacy laws when campaigning.”
A major investigation by South Wales Police into the Tories’ use of the call centre is still ongoing, and has not been affected by the ICO ruling.
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