The Leave.EU group have been fined for sending 500,000 spam texts urging people to back their campaign. Better for the Country, best known for campaigning under the name Leave.EU, was fined £50,000 ($72,000) by the Independent Commissioner's Office (ICO) for breaking rules regarding the sending of text messages without the receiver's permission ahead of June's referendum.
The group, backed by Ukip but separate to Boris Johnson's Vote Leave campaign group, said that they had obtained the list of phone numbers from a third-party supplier, which they used to send half a million texts to.
The ICO said organisations that purchase marketing lists from third parties must make "rigorous checks" to ensure that the numbers have been obtained lawfully and with their owner's consent. In this case, those that had given their numbers out should have been told that they would receive promotional messages about the group's campaign to leave the EU.
The ICO said that many people sent these texts had consented to receiving messages about areas including home improvements, leisure and insurance, but there was "no specification about EU politics".
Stephen Eckersley, ICO's head of enforcement, said: "Political parties and campaign groups must follow the same rules as anyone else. That means they must have people's permission before sending them text messages. Better for the Country did not have permission to send these messages. After considering all the options we decided that enforcement action was necessary. The consent wasn't clear. Local and national government was as specific as it got, there was no mention of leaving the EU."
Better for the Country has not yet responded to a request for comment from IBTimes UK.
The ICO has previously fiend Labour MP David Lammy £5,000 for making nuisance calls, as well as fining the Telegraph Media Group £30,000 for sending hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the 2015 general election urging readers to vote Conservative.