Vote Leave Fined $53,000 in U.K. Over Unlawful Text Messages

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(Bloomberg) — Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit campaign from the 2016 referendum, was fined 40,000 pounds ($53,000) for sending thousands of unsolicited text messages to people in the run-up to the poll in June that year.

The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday said Vote Leave “was unable to provide evidence that the people” targeted by 196,154 messages had given their consent, even though that is a condition for electronic marketing.

“Spam texts are a real nuisance for millions of people and we will take action against organizations who disregard the law,” Steve Eckersley, ICO director of investigations, said in a statement. “Political campaigns and parties, like any other organizations, have to comply with the law.”

Vote Leave representatives said that “fewer than 20 people” had complained about the thousands of messages concerned by the probe.

“The ICO took over two years to bring these complaints to our attention, when they could easily have done so in the summer of 2016,” Vote Leave said in an email. “Both during and after the referendum, Vote Leave complied with both the letter and spirit of the law. We have exchanged 46 letters with the ICO since the referendum, most of them refuting conspiracy theories peddled by people unhappy with the referendum result.”

In a separate challenge in January, Vote Leave lost a bid to sue the Electoral Commission, which had fined it after finding violations of electoral law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Christopher Elser, Peter Chapman

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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