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From the Press Association:

Eddie Mair | 14:02 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

By Andrew Woodcock, Press Association Chief Political Correspondent
Labour breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated phone calls to almost half a million people without their consent, the Information Commissioner's Office ruled today.

The calls, featuring a recorded message from Coronation Street actress Liz
Dawn, were targeted at around 495,000 people in areas with strong Labour support
to encourage them to turn out to vote in the local and European elections last

Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said calls of this type can cause
"annoyance and disruption" to those receiving them.

He ordered Labour to ensure that no further automated direct marketing calls
are made without consent, warning that failure to comply would be a criminal
offence which could lead to prosecution."


Jack and Vera yesterday.


  • 1. At 2:36pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Oh boy, I wish they'd stop the other nuisance calls we get (and, yes, we are registered with the Telephone Preference Service).

    Of course, had Jack and Vera rung us it would have been quite another matter.

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  • 2. At 2:37pm on 09 Feb 2010, vainly_here wrote:

    What about when students were the recipients of unsolicited calls before the "Education, Education, Education" election?

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  • 3. At 2:37pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Incidentally, while we're on the subject of 'nuisances', could we also discuss letters from TV Licensing which threaten legal action against householders in properties which don't have TV receiving equipment?

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  • 4. At 3:05pm on 09 Feb 2010, DiY wrote:

    Big Sister re don't have TV receiving equipment

    If you watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV you must, by law, be covered by a TV Licence, no matter what device you are using

    Whether it's a laptop, mobile phone or any other device that receives television programmes, you need to be covered by a TV Licence. It's the law.

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  • 5. At 3:11pm on 09 Feb 2010, Crataegus Monogyna wrote:


    • "as they're being shown on TV"

    Key phrase. Listen/watch an hour later, and you're in the clear.

    One more for the enrichment of lawyers.

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  • 6. At 3:18pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    DiY: I do know the Law, and the instance I am describing is correct. The household in question has no such equipment - and my description was accurate, btw. I wasn't just referring to televisions.

    Your comment sounded very condescending.

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  • 7. At 3:48pm on 09 Feb 2010, DiY wrote:

    Big Sister, didn't mean to be condescending!

    I assumed (wrongly) that they may have a PC etc!

    Crataegus Monogyna is correct.

    You don’t need a TV Licence if you only watch downloaded or streamed TV AFTER it has been broadcast. This includes using websites like YouTube and Bebo, as well as ‘on demand’ internet services like iPlayer offering TV downloads or streaming. So I assume that BBC iPlayer also falls into this category?

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  • 8. At 3:53pm on 09 Feb 2010, mittfh wrote:

    @1: That would be a very good idea. The number of times I've got back home to find a message on my answer phone from a withheld number...

    "Hello. I'm calling from the UK's leading financial claims company..."

    (But note she doesn't reveal what her company's actually called, which does tend to make you suspicious of the accuracy of that opening statement...)

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  • 9. At 4:07pm on 09 Feb 2010, Crataegus Monogyna wrote:


    She assumes the description is sufficient for any cognoscenti.


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  • 10. At 4:18pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Yes, DiY, I'm familiar with all the legislation on this one. This household (not mine) has been bombarded regularly with letters which presume guilt. They do have a PC, but don't watch TV on it (whether real time or afterwards), and wouldn't even consider doing so as they're on dial up ;o)

    The latest letter they received was an 'official warning', which said they hadn't responded to earlier communications. They've always responded to them - and a note has always been placed against their address to note that. Yet this time they were told they'd be 'visited by Enforement Officers', that they may 'interview (them) under caution' and that such an interview may be used 'in evidence' later. Taking that statement would e the 'first step in a legal process' which could lead to Court proceedings and a fine of up to £1,000. Of course, the visit, etc., could be avoided by buying a TV licence, the letter goes on to say.

    Now, this is an elderly couple. Since they received that letter they have been both upset and afraid, yet they have done nothing wrong.

    The way TV Licensing works presumes guilt until proven innocence, and their letters are very threatening.

    I've been onto TVL on their behalf, and straightened it out for them, but I still feel this is disgraceful.

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  • 11. At 4:26pm on 09 Feb 2010, DiY wrote:

    Big Sister re but I still feel this is disgraceful.

    Totally agree, another case of big brother needing to be reigned in!

    Perhaps Eric and PM might want to follow it up?

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  • 12. At 4:30pm on 09 Feb 2010, Crataegus Monogyna wrote:

    Pedant Alert!
    Reign, n, period of rule, rule. v, to rule
    Rein, n, controlling lead from equestrian bridle, or the like. v, to control by use of rein(s), especially to reduce pace or bring to a halt.


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  • 13. At 4:31pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    CM: Have you been talking to ValP lately? ;o)

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  • 14. At 4:43pm on 09 Feb 2010, DiY wrote:

    Crataegus Monogyna, sorry.

    Totally agree, another case of big brother needing to be rained in!


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  • 15. At 4:51pm on 09 Feb 2010, Crataegus Monogyna wrote:

    Surely On, and yellowish, methinks...

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  • 16. At 5:13pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Only one week to Pancake Day - Hurray!

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  • 17. At 5:50pm on 09 Feb 2010, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    "Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said governments can cause
    "annoyance and disruption" to those stuck with them."

    Fixed that for you...

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  • 18. At 5:54pm on 09 Feb 2010, oldgifford wrote:

    That American phone guy seems to be as thick as his grandmother!

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  • 19. At 5:55pm on 09 Feb 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Thank goodness that interview with Marty/Monty (?) is over! Worse than one of those nuisance "vote for us" calls.

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  • 20. At 5:58pm on 09 Feb 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    It was NOT Monty, Sue! ;o)

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  • 21. At 5:59pm on 09 Feb 2010, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    I think it would be really frustrating to shout a profanity down the phone to a recorded politician but, I would still shout it!

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  • 22. At 6:00pm on 09 Feb 2010, rlpntc wrote:

    why are people making such a fuss. its just like a tv advert, you can put down the phone, just as you could turn of the tv

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  • 23. At 6:01pm on 09 Feb 2010, tom gray wrote:

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  • 24. At 6:03pm on 09 Feb 2010, Peter Williams wrote:

    Let the Labour Party know that if they (or any other party) should send me a cold calling mechanised phone call, that I will NEVER vote for them again. Never!
    Peter Williams, Oxford

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  • 25. At 6:03pm on 09 Feb 2010, Richard wrote:

    I don't care who calls, if it's an unsolicited call, and a recording, I will not take it. What planet does that guy from Stone's Phones live on??

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  • 26. At 6:04pm on 09 Feb 2010, pachebal wrote:

    One automated telephone call from a politician would ensure 6 lost votes in thisn family.

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  • 27. At 6:07pm on 09 Feb 2010, tom gray wrote:

    I believe unsolicited advertising, marketing or similar phone calls are a menace and I agree with others that TPS is not sufficiently effective in quelling these calls. Automated calls are an especial abuse of the system as you can't have a 2-way conversation. The point which Eddie Mair made about perhaps interrupting your meal is only the tip of an iceberg. Basically the caller is intruding on your private space without leave. The caller does not know your situation. You may be ill, suffering a bereavement or waiting on an important phone call. I have been in all of these situations. I believe the time has come when the phone companies can no longer hide behind the practice of allowing callers to hide their calling numbers. You should be able to contact the caller and make sure they don't repeat the call.

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  • 28. At 6:09pm on 09 Feb 2010, Yvonne wrote:

    We got a similar call from Labour a while ago and when I complained to them they told me that the TPS did not apply to them! I reported it, but nothing happened.
    Another case of some of them claiming to be above the law, I wonder?

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  • 29. At 6:11pm on 09 Feb 2010, TallulahTanglewood wrote:

    The guy who runs the unsolicited calls seems to be in denial about how appealing interruptions and intrusions by uninvited sales pitches can be.

    It's phone chugging and no different from any other marketing and like street chugging it can backfire and turn people off them.

    He also seems to be hedging his bets between people being into celebrity culture enough to be starstruck by a scripted call and taking their vote and the state of their country seriously. Does he really think people are vapid enough to go vote because they get a call from a sleb? It's not X Factor.

    Whether or not they care enough to vote, an automated phone call is unlikely to change them.

    Will the Telephone Preference Service be covering electioneering calls too? They should.

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  • 30. At 6:13pm on 09 Feb 2010, Yvonne wrote:

    It would lose 3 more votes here, that's for sure

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  • 31. At 6:30pm on 09 Feb 2010, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    I live in a street that my council has designated a 'No cold call zone'. No one is allowed to knock on your door from a company with the intention of 'gain' of any kind without an invite. My local council are thinking of extending this to all its estate properties.

    We should have a similar system with cold phone calls with criminal sanctions to those who break them.

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  • 32. At 6:30pm on 09 Feb 2010, Myra McCarthy wrote:

    Automatic calls are intrusive and a real nuisance , and in my opinion worse than that from a callcentre. Both at home and work I get several automated calls each week and the reaction is always the same - annoyance and a swift hang-up. When you are busy the last thing you need is to be interupted by what sounds like an answerphone message.

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  • 33. At 6:42pm on 09 Feb 2010, PotHeadedPixie wrote:

    I had one of these phone calls just last Wednesday from 'My Local Labour Party' asking me to press buttons to say how I intended to vote. I have already complained to the Information Commissioner, and will be interested to see the outcome, though I'm not holding my breath. It's a fair bet the Labour Party knew this reprimand was coming at the time they called me, which makes it even more annoying - and yes Eddie Mair, it WAS in the middle of eating my tea

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  • 34. At 8:43pm on 09 Feb 2010, Galahad wrote:

    The gentleman from Stones Phones spoke of an American lady being so thrilled to receive a personal message from the President that she saved it to share with friends. I can't imagine a message from Liz Dawn having this effect on me - on reflection, I can't think of any "celebrity" recording which would excite me...
    Am I too cynical?
    Should I envy the American lady's simple joy?

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  • 35. At 09:33am on 10 Feb 2010, Peter Smith wrote:

    I listened to the representative from stones phones interviewed yesterday on radio 4 - he demonstrated an arrogant lack of insight or sympathy to an electorate who are just emerging from the worst financial crisis in decades which happened on the watch of the labour party - in short, unsolicited phone calls from a soap actress is either an insult to the intelligence of the target population or, more likely, a misguided media monster who thinks it ok to cheapen uk politics for disproportionate reward - in this the labour party and its agent have succeeded. When will politicians realise that their image will not be enhanced by a cheap and grubby promotional activity of this kind -

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  • 36. At 09:59am on 10 Feb 2010, Stewart_M wrote:

    Unsolicited phone calls are an annoyance. And TPS appears to "wear out" that after 18 months or so the unsolicted calls creep back in. I hang up the automated ones and if My wife answers one that is a real person she always asks before they get anywhere "Where did you get my number?" This puts them on the back foot immediately.

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  • 37. At 10:00am on 10 Feb 2010, Stewart_M wrote:

    That last sentence ran away a bit. Oops!. But going on the offensive usually ends the calls quite quickly.

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  • 38. At 12:16pm on 10 Feb 2010, Peter wrote:

    The American gentleman, who nearly made me crash the car with his ignorance and FW mentality (not his fault I guess seems to be the norm nowdays). Is qute simply from the planet (ref 25) America. The diference is cultural, and although we seem to be catching up with their celebmania, the americanism disease hasn't quite erased the englishmans home is his castle view. The chap doesn't (and some others don't) understand the diference between watching crap on the television (a self initiated operation, passive, its your choice if you turn it on) and receiving crap on the telephone (actively initiated by the offenders, intrusive, its not your choice if the telephone rings).

    I personally would complain to the police about nuisance phone calls (after all it lost us our best entertainers), and having logged the complaint with the police phone up the local Labour Party and complain to them.

    A law suit againt the offenders (the national socialists, and even Liz Dawn in this case) would be nice but probably unsafe on the basis of a single call.

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  • 39. At 9:25pm on 10 Feb 2010, lewis1531 wrote:

    As a shift worker I am thouroughly annoyed by cold callers who assume because they are working, you should also be awake and happy to take their call. If a person is ex-directory it should be illegal to cold call them!

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