Is your data safe? Are damages available?

Halliday v Creation Consumer Finance [2013] EWCA Civ 333 is a case in which a claimant was successful in a misuse of data protection claim, as the Court of Appeal awarded damages for the failure of the Data Controller to process data lawfully contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998 s.13(2).

Mr Halliday purchased a television set through a credit agreement with Creation Consumer Finance (CCF) and he later discovered that a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998(DPA) had occurred with his data on numerous occasions.

CCF provided incorrect data regarding Mr Halliday to a credit referencing agency, which was then made available for a period of four months. Mr Halliday’s initial claim for distress in the first instance was dismissed on the point that substantial damages were not awarded.

In the Court of Appeal (COA) Mr Halliday was awarded substantial damages of £1 but claimed damages for damage to his reputation and distress, based on Section 13(2) of the DPA entitling a claimant to compensation from a data controller for distress suffered through a DPA contravention.

No other damages were considered. In the COA Mr Halliday raised the point that the remedy granted (nominal damages) was not an effective remedy for the purposes of European law and relied on the well known authority of Von Colson & Kamann v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen [1994] ECRR 1892.

The COA held that national law was effective and that the points in the mentioned case differed to the instance here and so that point was dismissed. Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Lloyd and Mr Justice Ryder established that Mr Halliday would be awarded damages for distress but that this breach was restricted in nature and Mr Halliday did not suffer a loss of credit or reputation. The court described this as a “single episode” case, as it arose from a single error and not a continuing fault.

Consequently Mr Halliday was awarded £750 in compensatory damages for distress, that whilst there was an entitlement to damages they would be minimal.

Although small, the fact that damages were awarded at all may be able to assist those wanting to pursue a similar claim for data abuse.

Saowanee Kristin is currently on work experience at Lawdit.

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