The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined the Telegraph Media Group, publisher of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, £30,000 after it sent hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative.
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The plea came in a letter from Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans, attached to the paper’s usual morning e-bulletin.
Subscribers had signed up to receive a daily e-bulletin, but by promoting an election campaign, the paper broke the rules around direct marketing. The ICO found that none of the subscribers had given specific consent to receive that kind of marketing, a requirement under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said the paper had been negligent when it decided to send the campaign letter as part of the legitimate daily email.
He said: “People may well perceive the paper’s editorial content to have a political bias, but when The Telegraph emailed people directly, calling for them to vote for a political party, they crossed a line.”
In his letter, Mr Evans described the May 7 general election as the “most important since 1979.” He wrote: “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative.”
Mr Eckersley said: “People signed up to The Telegraph’s email service so they could catch up on the news or find out about subjects they were interested in. They did not expect to be told who they should be voting for.”
The ICO accepted that Mr Evans’ letter was only added to the usual mailing after a last-minute instruction from the editorial team. Pressure to distribute it quickly meant there was not enough time to properly consider whether the appropriate permissions were in place. These circumstances, along with the small number of complaints, were factors when deciding the fine.
Mr Eckersley said: “Regardless of the circumstances, this organisation fell short of the law and we have acted.”