Cyprus Mail

Unsolicited voice messages from MEP candidates ‘against the law’

Citizen Alliance's robocalling MEP candidate Koullis Nicolaou (l)

By Constantinos Psillides

ROBOCALLS by MEP candidates are against the law unless permission was given by the voter to receive them, Personal Data Protection Commissioner Yiannos Danielides said on Tuesday, responding to complaints that an MEP candidate resorted to unauthorised robocalling.

Danielides made clear that no candidate has a right to harass a voter by robocalling (making a call with a prerecorded message) or any other kind of personal communication, unless the voter gave consent beforehand.

“Such is the case of voters willingly including their name on party contact lists. With no previous consent given, directly communicating with a voter via phone or email while not giving the opportunity to the message receiver to block it, violates personal protection laws,” he said.

Danielides said that he has received a number of complaints, all of them regarding one particular MEP candidate although he refused to name him.
The candidate in question is well known actor Koullis Nicolaou, star of the ANT1 hit series ‘Mprousko’, who is a Citizen’s Alliance candidate. Nicolaou sent out an automated voice message telling people why they should vote for him in the upcoming euro elections.

Danielides said while candidates have to advertise and self-promote that promotion should be limited only to party contact lists. “What I’m really interested in is where did the candidate get the phone numbers of all these people. The complaints my office is currently processing came from people who said that they have absolutely no connection with the candidate’s party,” the commissioner said.

Danielides told the Cyprus Mail he would have a decision on the matter within the week. Asked on the penalty, Danielides said the candidate could be fined a maximum of €30,000.

Danielides added he was opposed to robocalls and would ask the parties to refrain from employing that tactic in the future.

Nicolaou is the first candidate to have used robocalling as a means of self-promotion.

Fellow Citizens’ Alliance candidate and spokesman Alexandros Michaelides said the party had received notification from Danielides, asking them to notify the candidate that he was violating the law.

Michaelides said by law it is not illegal to directly contact voters, provided they have the option of cancelling any further contact, free of charge.

“The candidate has been notified and made aware that he was violating personal data protection laws and promised to alter the message so as to give people the opportunity to not receive them if they so wish,” Michaelides said.

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