The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has begun formal enforcement action against care homes that have failed to pay the data protection fee.
The data protection regulator has sent notices of its intent to fine the businesses unless they pay, those that don’t could face a maximum fine of £600.
The ICO recently sent out the first fines to more than 100 organisations across a range of sectors for non-payment of the fee.
All organisations that process personal data must pay a fee to the ICO and are then listed on its register of data controllers. The care home sector is currently under-represented on this register. There are exemptions from paying the fee but care homes process particularly sensitive personal information for health administration and patient care purposes and are therefore not exempt.
Paul Arnold, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the ICO, said: “We expect the notices we have issued to serve as a final demand to these businesses and that they will pay before we proceed to a fine. But we will not hesitate to use our powers if necessary.
“All organisations that are required to pay the data protection fee must prioritise payment or risk getting a formal letter from us outlining enforcement action.”
Organisations have 21 days to respond to the notices. If they pay, action will stop.
The data protection fee is set by Government which has a statutory duty to ensure the ICO is adequately funded, and is part of the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018. It came into force on 25 May to coincide with the new Data Protection Act (2018) and the General Data Protection Regulation. And it replaces the need to notify or register with the ICO.
The data protection fee helps fund the ICO’s work to uphold information rights such as investigations into data breaches and complaints, our popular advice line, and guidance and resources for organisations to help them understand and comply with their data protection obligations. The ICO has grown over the last two years – now employing around 670 staff.
Under the funding model, set by Government, organisations are divided into three tiers based on their size, turnover and whether an organisation is a public authority or charity.
For very small organisations, the fee won’t be any higher than the £35 they currently pay (if they take advantage of a £5 reduction for paying by direct debit).
Larger organisations will be required to pay £2,900. The fee is higher because these organisations are likely to hold and process the largest volumes of data and therefore represent a greater level of risk.
Those that ignore the notices or refuse to pay may face a fine ranging from £400 to £4,000 depending on the size and turnover of the organisation. Aggravating factors may lead to an increase in the fine up to a maximum of £4,350.
Further information and the ICO’s fee calculator tool are available here. The ICO’s Guide to the Data Protection Fee can be found here.
Organisations that have a current registration (or notification) under the 1998 Act – prior to 25 May 2018 – do not have to pay the new fee until that registration has expired.