The Conservative Party has been fined £10,000 for sending dozens of marketing emails to people who did not want to receive them.
Data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) opened a probe into the party over 51 emails sent in Boris Johnson’s name over the eight days after he was elected prime minister in July 2019.
The emails, which were addressed to recipients by name, promoted the Tories’ political priorities and included a link directing them to a website to join the party.
But the ICO found that the recipients had unsubscribed from marketing emails — something the party failed to keep track of after it switched email providers.
The watchdog added that while its investigation was still ongoing the Conservatives engaged in an “industrial-scale” marketing email exercise, sending nearly 23m emails.
This led to a further 95 complaints, which the ICO was likely to have resulted from the party’s failure to address the original compliance issues identified in July 2019.
“The public have rights when it comes to how their personal data is used for marketing… The Conservative Party ought to have known this, but failed to comply with the law,” said Stephen Eckersley, ICO director of investigations.
“All organisations — be they political parties, businesses or others — should give people clear information and choices about what is being done with their personal data. Direct marketing laws are clear and it is the responsibility of all organisations to ensure they comply.
“The sending of nuisance marketing emails is a real concern to the public and the ICO will continue to take action where we find behaviour that puts people’s information rights at risk.”
Eckersley added it was “really concerning” that large-scale email marketing occurred during the investigation and before the party had ensured it had the proper data protection processes in place.
A Conservative Party spokesperson said the party had accepted the fine, adding: “We have since reviewed and improved our processes and are fully compliant with all prevailing data protection and electronic marketing legislation.”
It is not the first time the Tories have been in hot water over their emailing habits. In addition to concerns raised by the ICO in 2019, the party has also come under scrutiny for its fundraising pleas.
Party chair Ben Elliot sparked anger during the December 2019 election campaign over the “bossy tone” of an email in his name asking for donations.
The email, addressed to party members by name, said “Does this look right to you? I’ve been reviewing our membership list and it looks like you haven’t yet made a contribution to our campaign”.
Conservative Home editor Mark Wallace described it as “intrusive”, adding that it was “like they’re keeping tabs on how disappointing you are”.