Vote Leave fined £40k for sending spam text messages

Vote Leave fined £40k for sending spam text messages

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Pro-Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined £40,000 for sending thousands of spam text messages in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the organisation sent 196,154 messages and was unable to provide evidence that recipients had consented – as required by electronic marketing law.

They said Vote Leave claimed it had deleted evidence of consent relied upon to send the messages after the referendum in 2016.



ICO director of investigations Steve Eckersley said: "Spam texts are a real nuisance for millions of people and we will take action against organisations who disregard the law.

"Direct marketing is not just about selling products and services, it's also about promoting an organisation's aims and ideals.

"Political campaigns and parties, like any other organisations, have to comply with the law."


'Disappointing lack of transparency' 

The announcement came hours after Labour Leave was fined £9,000 for failing to report donations during the 2016 EU referendum.

The registered campaign group received 11 donations worth £420,000 during the referendum but did not report two of them.

Electoral Commission director of regulation Louise Edwards said Labour Leave had a responsibility to accurately report donations "so the public could see where the money they used for campaigning came from".

Confirming it has now paid the fines, she said: "The responsible person for Labour Leave had an important legal duty to accurately report all donations.

"In this case, they failed to do so which led to a disappointing lack of transparency into the group's finances."



Labour Leave was required to deliver pre-poll reports of donations received, and a post-poll spending return including all donations accepted.

Ms Edwards said investigators found two donations, each worth £10,000, had not been declared in pre-poll reports nor in post-poll reports.

These were non-cash donations of office space, one from Better for the Country Limited, the other from John Mills Limited.

Labour Leave was fined £1,000 for omitting the donations in pre-poll returns and £8,000 for omitting them again in post-poll returns.

A spokesperson for Labour Leave described the Electoral Commission’s rules around reporting as “long, complex, confusing and unclear”.

They added: “We can confirm that Labour Leave has been fined £9,000 for two administrative mistakes, which involve declaring donations on the wrong forms or accounts.

“We feel these fines are disproportionate for the mistakes made, but have accepted the result of the Electoral Commission and paid the fines quickly and in full. 

"For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Mills declared all of these donations in either the reports or comprehensive accounts that were provided to the Electoral Commission, but the Electoral Commission has determined that these were not declared on the correct forms or accounts.”