The Telegraph has been fined up to £30,000 after sending thousands of people an email urging them to vote Conservative on the day of the General Election.
The letter making the plea was attached to the paper’s regular news summary on May 7.
Sent from editor Chris Evans, it described the poll as the “most important since 1979”, adding: “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that subscribers to the e-bulletin had not specifically consented to receive such marketing, as required under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Explaining the level of the fine, the ICO acknowledged that the breach was unlikely to cause “substantial distress” to Telegraph readers. The newspaper had also taken “substantial remedial action” to ensure there was no repeat of the error.
Head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “People may well perceive the paper’s editorial content to have a political bias, but when The Telegraph emailed people directly, calling for them to vote for a political party, they crossed a line.
“People signed up to The Telegraph’s email service so they could catch up on the news or find out about subjects they were interested in. They did not expect to be told who they should be voting for.”
If the Telegraph pays the fine by January 15 it will be reduced by 20% to £24,000.
A Telegraph Media Group spokesman said: “Although we are disappointed with this ruling, we note the mitigating factors that the ICO highlights in its report: the response to the email was overwhelmingly positive, and the ICO agreed in its ruling that it was unlikely to cause distress.
“Indeed, only two complaints were received by the ICO. The ruling also recognises that we fully co-operated with the ICO and that we have taken steps to make sure this should not happen again.”