NEWS
05/02/2019 13:19 GMT | Updated 05/02/2019 18:55 GMT

Wetherspoons' Brexit-Themed Mail-Out Dodges Regulators

The company’s effort exposed a loophole in how political communications are regulated outside of an election period.

JD Wetherspoon has attracted dozens of complaints after sending a Brexit-themed magazine to thousands of households in the post, but multiple regulators said no action will be taken. 

The pub chain, which is chaired by Leave-supporter Tim Martin, issued an abridged version of its in-house publication via Royal Mail for the first time in its history at the end of last month.

The publication, which included a series of articles for and against Brexit, attracted a wave of complaints on social media, as well as to regulators and Wetherspoons itself, HuffPost UK has found.

Matt Cardy via Getty Images
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin is a vocal supporter of Brexit.

The company’s effort appeared to expose a loophole in how political communications are regulated outside of an election period.

The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed to HuffPost UK that it had received 71 complaints so far, though it said it ruled that the magazine “falls out of its remit” due to the publication’s political content.

The Electoral Commission said it was aware of the materials, and had also received “a number” of complaints, but similarly ruled it was not in a position to regulate the effort, as it was sent outside of an official election period.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said that, as the magazine was not addressed to a person, it fell outside its remit as data watchdog.

While the Mail Preference Service, which combats junk mail, said that it had received a complaint, but also ruled the unaddressed material was outside its jurisdiction.

The pub chain told HuffPost UK copies of its magazine had been returned to its head office and that it had received a “small number” of phone calls, some of which were abusive.

The magazine carried the headline 'Circle of Deceit'.

A spokesperson for Martin said the mailing effort was designed to counter arguments made on social media, where Wetherspoon no longer has a presence.

They said that the magazine sent to households was “balanced”, with articles for and against Britain’s exit from the EU.

“Tim’s views are well known but he’s always tried to be measured, unlike social media,” the spokesperson added.

The Advertising Standards Authority said: “Having carefully assessed the complaints, we consider this material falls outside our remit, [and is] not covered by our rules, and therefore we will not be taking any further action.”

The Electoral Commission said: “As there is no election or referendum period in place at this time, the literature that Wetherspoon’s has distributed is not covered by electoral law.”