Watchdog warns Tories over Neath call centre election use

image captionUndercover filming by Channel 4 News at the call centre in Neath claimed the Tories broke electoral law and data protection rules

A watchdog has warned the Conservative party over how it used a call centre during the general election campaign.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said small parts of scripts used crossed the line from legitimate market research to unlawful direct marketing.

But it stopped short of taking formal action and the Tories have been asked to comment.

Meanwhile, police are investigating claims the Neath call centre was used to canvass voters during the campaign.

The Conservatives have denied it broke electoral law by using the Blue Telecoms call centre.

However, the ICO investigated whether the Conservative use of the centre broke rules on unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes.

image copyrightChannel 4 News

It came after a Channel 4 News report said the UK Conservatives contracted Blue Telecoms to conduct marketing campaigns ahead of the vote on 8 June.

The undercover investigation claimed the workers may have been carrying out paid canvassing, banned under electoral law, as they promoted key Conservative messages to undecided voters in the weeks before the election.

"We've found that two small sections of the written scripts used by those making the calls crossed the line from legitimate market research to unlawful direct marketing," a blog on the ICO's website said.

"We've warned the Conservative Party to get it right next time."

The concerns related to paragraphs referenced both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in relation to policy choices.

But it added: "We've stopped short of formal regulatory action because the overall campaign was genuine market research.

"The two sections we had concerns about were not enough to trigger formal enforcement action when considered along with the campaign as a whole.

"In addition, the results of the survey were not saved against any individual so they could not be targeted for future marketing."

Plaid Cymru AM Dai Lloyd said he found it "odd" that the ICO had not taken any formal action against the Conservative Party.

"This call centre activity, which the ICO has confirmed is a form of unlawful direct marketing, should not have been happening, and the Tories should be held to account," he said.

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