Leave campaign and Arron Banks’ firm fined for illegal marketing
PUBLISHED: 12:08 01 February 2019
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The data law watchdog has issued fines totalling £120,000 to two organisations involved in the Brexit Leave campaign.
Unofficial leave campaign Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance, owned by millionaire Brexiteer Arron Banks, have been hit with the fines for illegal marketing messages.
The fine was issued by watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which also announced that it will be auditing both firms’ handling of personal data.
Insurance tycoon Banks, a former Ukip donor, told a committee of MPs last June that nobody worked for both Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance. He later issued a statement clarifiyng that staff transferred on short-term contracts.
But after investigating the relationship between the two organisations, the ICO found that they were in fact closely linked.
It said: “Systems for segregating the personal data of insurance customers from that of political subscribers were ineffective.”
The office said this resulted in Leave.EU using Eldon Insurance customers’ details to illegally send almost 300,000 political marketing messages, for which Leave.EU has been fined £15,000.
According to the ICO, Eldon Insurance also carried out two illegal direct marketing campaigns involving the sending of more than one million emails to Leave.EU subscribers without sufficient consent.
Leave.EU, co-founded by Banks in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, was fined £45,000 and Eldon £60,000 for this breach of data law.
Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, 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.”
As part of the audit, the ICO will be able to access Leave.EU and Eldon’s joint offices, staff and documentation.
It said: “It is a criminal offence to obstruct an ICO audit or destroy information covered by it.”
Banks is currently facing a criminal investigation into the origin of £8m of donations he made to the Leave.EU campaign.
He has denied any suggestion of unlawful activity, especially claims that the source of the funds was Russian.