Companies fined for serious marketing breaches
06 February 2019
THE INFORMATION Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £120,000 to an EU referendum campaign and an insurance company for serious breaches of electronic marketing laws and is set to review how both are complying with data protection laws.
The ICO announced an audit and issued a preliminary enforcement notice as well as three notices of intent to fine Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance trading as Go Skippy Insurance, in November 2018 as part of its investigation into data analytics for political purposes.
After considering the companies’ representations, the ICO has issued the fines, confirming a change to one amount, with the other two remaining unchanged. The regulator has also issued two assessment notices to Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance to inform both organisations that they will be audited.
The ICO investigation found that Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance were closely linked. Systems for segregating the personal data of insurance customers’ from that of political subscribers’ were ineffective.
This resulted in Leave.EU using Eldon Insurance customers’ details unlawfully to send almost 300,000 political marketing messages. Leave.EU has been fined £15,000 for this breach.
Eldon Insurance carried out two unlawful direct marketing campaigns. The campaigns involved the sending of over one million emails to Leave.EU subscribers without sufficient consent. Leave.EU has been fined £45,000 and Eldon Insurance has been fined £60,000 for the breach.
Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said, “It is deeply concerning that sensitive personal data gathered for political purposes was later used for insurance purposes; and vice versa. It should never have happened.
“We have been told both organisations have made improvements and learned from these events. But the ICO will now audit the organisations to determine how they are using customers’ personal information.”
The assessment notices allow the ICO access to Leave.EU and Eldon’s joint offices, staff, and documentation. It is a criminal offence to obstruct an ICO audit or destroy information covered by it.
The ICO’s audit team will be looking at data protection practices including observing how personal data is processed, considering what policies and procedures are in place and looking at the types of training made available for staff. They will also be interviewing key employees across both organisations including the directors, staff and their data protection officers. The ICO’s audit findings will be made public at the conclusion of its work.
Eldon Insurance has also received an enforcement notice from the ICO ordering the company to take steps to ensure it complies with electronic marketing regulations.
The ICO has published two reports as part of its wide-ranging data analytics investigation. Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence looks at the broader policy issues identified during the investigation along with findings and the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for future action. Investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns is the latest update for the investigation.