Data Protection Act legal consequences
On 9 March 2012, Mr Michael Collins was awarded €15, 000 in damages by the Circuit Court for breaches of data protection legislation by FBD Insurance plc (FBD). It is the first time that an individual has been successful in requesting the Circuit Court to assess and award compensation for breaches of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, as amended (the DPA). We look at the significance of the case and the likely implications for businesses in Ireland.
Mr Collins, a member of the Travelling community, made a claim under a policy he had with FBD in respect of a stolen work van. The claim was refused by FBD on the basis that Mr Collins had failed to disclose previous criminal convictions when entering into his policy. Mr Collins challenged this decision on the basis that the proposal form he had completed did not inquire as to all of his previous criminal convictions and requested only relevant information relating to convictions for road traffic offences.
Under Section 4 of the DPA, Mr Collins sought a copy of his personal data held by FBD and in particular a copy of the proposal form in question. FBD refused to provide him with this information, claiming it had been lost, and Mr Collins made a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner. Upon investigation at FBD offices in Bluebell, Dublin, the Commissioner discovered that FBD had in its possession a report about Mr Collins from a private investigator stating that Mr Collins had been convicted of a crime and had been sentenced to serve a period of time in prison. On foot of the investigation, the Commissioner found that FBD was in breach of the DPA. He found the failure of FBD to provide the private investigator report to Mr Collins was a breach of Section 4 of the DPA. It also transpired from District Court inquiries that the information contained in the report held by FBD was inaccurate.
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