Thursday, 10 March 2016

David Lammy fined £5000 for mayoral robo-calls

While the Electoral Commission and police appear to be paying pass the buck with regard to excessive campaign spending by the Conservatives, the Information Commissioner is busy enforcing another area of electoral law. David Lammy MP has been fined £5000 for robo-calls made on behalf of his effort to become Labour's candidate for London mayor.

Mr Lammy's campaign made 35,629 automated calls to Labour Party members in August last year based on membership data passed to him by the party. However, he failed to make sure that the recipients were happy to receive automated calls.

The law is clear that if you provide your contact details to an organisation such as a political party then you are deemed to be be happy to receive calls unless you opt out - and the organisation needs to give you easy opportunities to do so. Hence the 'tick here if you do not want to receive...' box on most sign up forms.

But robo-calls are a different matter. To receive these you have to opt in. The Labour Party did not seek such permission and so Lammy was in breach of the law when he set up the automated contact.

Political parties are no special case in this regard. If you receive an automated call offering you PPI or accident claim services then it is almost certainly illegal. However, as these tend to originate from overseas, there is nothing that the Information Commissioner can do about them. 

Robo-calls are commonplace in US politics. They aren't that effective, but they are cheap and easy to do. They also annoy the heck out of a lot of recipients. Hence the welcome result today.

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