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The Labour Party fails to comply with section 11

How are they supposed to run a country when they can't even comply with my request not to send me marketing?

In June 2009 a New Labour election leaflet was posted through my letterbox, addressed to me. I promptly contacted Labour and asked them not to post any more leaflets to me and they responded as follows:

I am writing in response to your recent email to the Labour Party about an election leaflet addressed to you by name. In your email you said that you did not want to receive any further communication from the Labour Party. In accordance with your wishes I have marked our copy of the electoral register to show that you do not want to be contacted by us again.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1983 as amended, all registered political parties are entitled to hold a full copy of the electoral register for political purposes. Political purposes includes contacting electors by mail. It was the electoral register information that the Labour Party used to generate the election mailing referred to in your email. I can assure you that we do not pass on the electoral roll information to any third party. We do not hold any other information about you and we will not store your email address.

I replied as follows:

Thank you for sorting this out. I don’t actually object to you holding my personal data, as long as you don’t use it for direct marketing purposes – which includes the promotion of an organisation’s aims or ideals to me personally.

All very amicable.

However, in August 2009 New Labour used my e-mail address - the one that I had given when I submitted the original complaint about the leaflet, to send me a promotional e-mail with the subject 'Time is running out'. So on the 28th August I contacted Labour again to ask them why they were sending me electronic marketing.

On the 4th September I received the following reply:

As you will be aware from the out of office message that you received following your email to me on 28 August, I only returned from holiday on Wednesday. You will appreciate that I have had to work through a great many emails that arrived while I was away.

Nonetheless, we noted your email on Wednesday and have started an investigation into how you came to receive the 'Time is Running Out' email despite your previous request not to be contacted. We do not have an answer for you at the moment but should be able to write to you with more information by the end of next week.

At this point I no longer trusted The Labour Party to process my data in accordance with my wishes so on the 5th September I submitted a section 11 request. On the 18th September I asked Labour for an update on their investigation but did not receive a reply. I contacted them again on the 29th September to ask for an update on their investigation and again did not receive a reply. At which point I decided to call it a day; they clearly didn't want to comment.

At this point, as far as I was concerned, New Labour had:

                1. Failed to put a marketing block on my personal data when they said that they had.

                2. Failed to get back to me with the results of their investigation when they said that they would.

                3. No right to process my personal data in the first place to send me electronic marketing because it's unlikely that they had obtained my consent to do so. When I submitted their general enquiry form to make my original enquiry about the leaflet, there were no consent statements or opt-outs on that form - just as there are no consent statements or opt-outs on their contact form today. So at what point did Labour obtain an informed indication of my consent to send me electronic marketing? The Labour Party should not be adding the e-mail addresses submitted via their contact form to their mailing lists without first obtaining an informed indication of consent. I find their lack of understanding of direct marketing laws and regulations disturbing.

With this kind of track record it was surely only a matter of time before Labour contravened my section 11 request. And sure enough, on the 28th September 2012 I received an e-mail From the Shadow Health Secretary - sent to the same e-mail address that they had no right to send electronic marketing to in the first place... the same e-mail address where they conducted an investigation but never got back to me with the results... and the same e-mail address that I opted out with a section 11 request three years earlier.

So what's happened there then? Is Andy Burnham so desperate that he's decided to re-active all the blocked e-mail addresses? I contacted Labour yesterday and asked them to explain why they're sending me this e-mail address and par for the course, I've not heard back from them yet. Unfortunately for them it's likely that they've now contravened my section 11 request so I'll be submitting a complaint to the Information Commissioner and I'm seriously considering taking legal action under section 11(3). A public apology by Andy Burnham on the Andrew Marr show might make me change my mind.

Needless to say, a political party that shows such contempt for my rights as a data subject will not be getting my vote.

Update (28.10.2012)

I contacted the Labour Party on the 29 September 2012 by submitting their web form, to ask why they have Labour fails to comply with DPA98continued to send me promotional information in spite of my section 11 request. As of the 28 Oct I have not received a reply; which is consistent with their failure to get back to me about the outcome of their previous investigation. When dealing with data protection issues then, it appears that The Labour Party have a habit of burying their head in the sand in the hope that it will just go away. Nice attitude! The way I see it, if a Tory minister is forced to resign over a bit of name calling then I expect Andy Burnham to do the honourable thing - bearing in mind that not only are Labour likely to be contravening data protection law, but their attitude towards dealing with this kind of issue sucks.

I like to think that I'm a reasonable person. If someone was willing to conduct an investigation and get back to me with the results of that investigation; to apologise, to provide me with details of what went wrong and to give me their assurance that it would not happen again, then I think I could live with that. As Labour haven't bothered to do this, I have now submitted a Request For Assessment to the ICO and I will be consulting with a solicitor once the ICO has concluded its investigation.

When I seek a court order requiring Labour to comply with my section 11 rights, I trust that their lawyers will not accuse me of being rash.

Update (27.11.2012)

The ICO has concluded their investigation into my complaint (RFA0467556). Here's how Labour explained their failure to comply with my section 11 request:

The Party has explained that in response to your email in 2009 your details were flagged for no further contact. It obtained your email address when you used a contact form on the Party’s web-site to complain about the original postal communication.

During a recent data cleansing exercise to assure that flags were properly assigned a number of people who had only made contact via the web-site contact form (as you had done) were incorrectly added back onto the general mailing list.

Although the error was identified and reversed this was not done before the email was sent to you on 28 September. The Party has now ensured that your email address has been properly flagged for no direct marketing. It has assured us that procedures are in place to prevent this error occurring in future.

And here's what the ICO concluded:

On the basis of all of the information available we have decided it is unlikely that the Party has complied with the requirements of the DPA in this case. This is because it sent you direct marketing despite your earlier request under section 11 for it not to do so. It also appears the Party contravened Regulation 22 of PECR because we have seen no evidence that you had originally consented to your email address being used for unsolicited marketing purposes.

However, we note the Party’s assurance that your details have been suppressed from any future communication and the Information Commissioner has decided that further regulatory action is not required at this time.

I'm now seeking an apology from Labour.

Update (19.12.2012)

Labour have finally decided to issue an apologyLightbox window. I had to fight for it though; I had to contact them again on the 12/12/2012 and threaten them with legal action. I'm not impressed by their apology either - when you bear in mind the number of times that they've chosen to ignore me. It's disgraceful that they have chosen to ignore me on so many occasions.

History of events

To finish off then, here's a time line of the events.

June 2009:
Labour sent a political flyer to my postal address - addressed to me.

I contacted Labour by e-mail and asked them not to post any more flyers to my address.

In response to my request Labour assured me that they had updated their database so that I would not be contacted again.

August 2009:
Labour sent e-mail marketing to the e-mail address that I used to contact them in June. Did they obtain my consent to send me electronic marketing?

I contacted Labour by e-mail to ask them why they were sending me electronic marketing.

September 2009:
Labour informed me that they were conducting an investigation to find out why my e-mail address was added to their marketing database and that they would get back to me with an answer. I wasn't happy that Labour had added my e-mail address to their marketing database though so I submitted a section 11 request via their web form.

I contacted Labour via e-mail and asked for an update on their investigation but did not receive a reply.

I contacted Labour again via e-mail and asked for an update on their investigation but did not receive a reply.

September 2012:
Labour sent e-mail marketing to the e-mail address that I used to contact them in June 2009.

I contacted Labour via their web form to enquire why they had processed my personal data to send me electronic marketing but did not receive a reply.

October 2012:
I submitted a request for assessment to the Information Commissioner's Office.

November 2012:
The ICO concluded their investigation.

I contacted Labour via their web form and asked for an apology but did not receive a reply.

December 2012:
I contacted Labour via their web form and asked for an apology and finally received a reply.

And here is a screen shot of the files containing screen shots of the submitted web forms. I regularly take and save screen shots of any web forms that I submit.

Labour fails to comply with DPA98

Last updated: 19.12.2012