1. ITV Report

Firm fined over Brexit campaign text messages

The in/out referendum will take place on June 23. Credit: Reuters

A firm which sent more than 500,000 text messages urging people to back its Brexit campaign has been fined by a watchdog.

Better for the Country Ltd, best known for campaigning under the name Leave.EU, broke the law by not having consent of the people it sent text messages to, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said.

The firm, which obtained the list of phone numbers from a third party supplier, was fined £50,000 for the breach.

Many of those who were sent texts by Better for the Country Ltd had consented to receiving messages about areas including leisure, home improvements and insurance but there was no specification about EU politics, the watchdog said.

The ICO added that organisations buying marketing lists from third parties must make rigorous checks to ensure that the third party has obtained the data fairly and lawfully, and has the necessary consent.

Political parties and campaign groups must follow the same rules as anyone else. That means they must have people's permission before sending them text messages.

Better for the Country did not have permission to send these messages. After considering all the options we decided that enforcement action was necessary.

– Stephen Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement
The ICO said many of those who received text messages from Better for the Country Ltd had not given consent to receive messages about EU politics. Credit: PA
  • What was Better for the Country's explanation?

During an ICO investigation, Better for the Country explained that some of the text messages had been sent to people who had registered as supporters of the campaign on its website, while the remainder were sent to individuals whose details had been obtained from a third party data supplier.

Leave.EU said it will be appealing against the fine.

In a statement it said:

We hired a reputable data company to act on our behalf, who for some reason were not fined by the ICO even though they gave us written assurances that the data was opt in data in line with ICO rules.

We think the ICO have got this wrong.

– Statement, Leave.EU