Information Commissioner: Lib Dems must stop automated phone calls

by Stephen Tall on September 25, 2008

As speculated here on LDV last night, the Information Commissioner has now officially ruled that the Lib Dems must stop attempts to contact up to 250,000 voters in 50 marginal constituencies with an automated phone call featuring leader Nick Clegg. The BBC website has the full story here.

Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard told the BBC last week the aim of the calls in the wake of Mr Clegg’s party conference speech was to “guide” the party to the issues worrying voters in 50 key seats. An automated 30 second voice message from Mr Clegg was played out during the early evening calls, with recipients tapping numbers on their handsets to respond to questions about education, health, tax, crime, environmental and economic policies.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has now ruled that the Lib Dem calls constituted “direct marketing”, which are not allowed unless someone has given prior consent.

I understand from party sources that of the 250,000 calls attempted, some 159,000 people in those 50 constituencies will have heard Nick Clegg inviting them to give him their opinions on the Lib Dems’ key messages and hear what they are. Out of those 159,000 the Information Commissioner has received six complaints, or 0.0038% if you prefer.

The Comissioner’s enforcement notice gives the party 30 days to stop using the calls (any breach would be a criminal offence). The party has confirmed to LDV that it has already done so.