Leave.EU has been fined £50,000 for sending half a million marketing texts because the authorities have deemed that consent sought from the owners wasn’t explicitly about the EU referendum.
Meanwhile, no action has been taken against the government despite it unofficially ploughing millions of pounds into Remain efforts.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has taken action against Better for the Country Ltd, the company running the Leave.EU campaign, over half a million texts urging people to vote to leave the European Union. Leave.EU have denied the allegations, accusing the Commissioners Office of attempting to assassinate the organisation’s character.
Leave.EU bought the numbers from a third party agent who had collected them from people willing to be sent marketing information. But the ICO’s head of enforcement, Stephen Eckersley has ruled that, as that consent didn’t specifically mention the EU Referendum campaign, the texts were sent illegally.
“The consent wasn’t clear,” Eckersley told The Guardian. “Local and national government was as specific as it got: there was no mention of leaving the EU.”
He added: “Political parties and campaign groups must follow the same rules as anyone else.”
In a separate ruling, the Electoral Commission has removed 11 groups filed under the banner of Grassroots Out from its official register of campaign groups, meaning their spending will be capped at £10,000. Groups on the register can spend up to £700,000.
Conservative MP and co-founder of Grassroots Out Peter Bone dismissed allegations that the groups had been set up to circumnavigate spending rules as “absurd, wrong and very disturbing”.
He explained to the BBC that the groups had been set up in anticipation of being awarded official lead campaign status, and would now be wound up.
But while the authorities are keen to ensure that Leave campaigners don’t overstep the mark, no mention has been made of the Government’s huge investment in the Remain campaign, far outstripping official limits.
It has received no censure for sending a pro-Remain leaflet to every household in the UK, billing taxpayers £9 million for printing and distribution costs and a further £3 million for online advertising.
Similarly, no mention is made in official figures of the £135,000 a week the government in kind for advertising on its own websites, nor for the donation of the British Museum as a venue to hold a Britain Stronger in Europe event.
In total the Remain campaign and Government have together spent £17.5 million persuading British voters to opt to stay within the European Union, £10 million of which is off the books against the Leave campaigners’ £8 million.
Leave.EU founder Arron Banks told Breitbart London: “From day one we have had to play by different rules to the Remain campaign. The dice are loaded, with extra taxpayers money of some £9 million paying for a Government leaflet to every household and advertising on Government websites like the DVLA.
“Despite the fact we are innocent of these allegations about data abuse – and will be appealing against the decision – the attempted character assassination of the Leave.EU campaign is constant and obvious. The information commissioner is simply throwing mud hoping something will stick whilst failing in its obligation to hold the Remain camp to account for their rule breaking.”