The Conservative Party has been accused of using underhand tactics – including a “secret” call centre – during the General Election campaign, which may have broken data protection and election laws, according to a Channel 4 News investigation.
An undercover reporter working for C4 News secured work at Blue Telecoms, a firm in Neath, South Wales, which hired up to 100 people on zero-hours contracts to contact thousands of potential voters in marginal seats across the UK.
The investigation has uncovered what appear to be underhand and potentially unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party, including paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – banned under election law; political cold calling to prohibited numbers; and misleading calls claiming to be from an independent market research company which does not apparently exist.
The claims come despite a warning issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office to all political parties in the run up to the election, reminding them of their obligations when contacting potential supporters during the campaign.
The Conservative Party has admitted it had commissioned Blue Telecoms to carry out “market research and direct marketing calls” during the campaign, and insisted the calls were legal.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Political parties of all colours pay for market research and direct marketing calls. All the scripts supplied by the party for these calls are compliant with data protection and information law.”
However, according to the report, voters contacted by the firm were asked who they intended to vote for and how they had voted in previous elections by callers claiming to be from “Axe Research – an independent market research company”, although ‘Axe Research’ does not have a live website, address or phone number and is not listed on the data protection register.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We reminded campaigners from political parties of their obligations around direct marketing at the beginning of the election campaign. Where we find they haven’t followed the law we will act.
“We will be asking the Conservative Party about the marketing campaigns conducted from this call centre.”
Privacy chief issues warning to main political parties