Email and telemarketing regulator the Information Commissioner’s Officer’s Office has written to the parties detailing data protection and electronic marketing rules after complaints market research is being used to gain votes.
It is not known which party or parties prompted the complaints.
Market research should only be used to develop a party’s positioning, the ICO says, and party activists need to explicitly state if they are calling to canvas support.
Texts, calls and emails are all covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which the ICO enforces. Breaches can lead to fines.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says: “This is about the political parties demonstrating best practice, and being open and upfront with voters about their marketing activities, explaining to people in an open and transparent way how their personal details will be used.
“The rules apply to political parties, just as they do to businesses and charities. In communicating with voters, the parties need to be clear about what their intentions are and why they are asking people for their information. We don’t need election campaigns featuring nuisance calls, spam texts and canvassing under the guise of ‘research’.”
Guidance to avoid breaches is included in the letter including the need to gain explicit consent, stating the intention of the call and offering people the chance to opt-out of direct marketing.
The marketing tactics used by the parties in the run-up to the European elections later this month have come under the spotlight after UKIP was slammed for its campaign warning of the consequences of remaining in the European Union. Since the campaign launched late last month, it has emerged that an unemployed builder featured in one of the posters to demonstrate how British workers are being replaced by cheap labour from Eastern Europe is played by an Irish actor.
The Advertising Standards Authority has received tens of complaints but cannot investigate because party political advertising falls out of its remit.