Data protection agency gets more teeth

In an article in Your Witness magazine in March, private investigator Peter Heims wrote scathingly of the effect of the Data Protection Act on the ability of creditors and tracing agents to track down debt evaders.

In the article Peter Heims wrote: “Recent changes in the law have severely restricted tracers’ access to legitimate sources for tracking down debtors. Tracing agents have been under pressure over the past few years, facing tighter controls over what they are allowed to do to find debtors. One of the biggest blows to the industry was the Data Protection Act 1998 or, as it is known by creditors and tracers alike, ‘the debtor’s charter’.”

In a reference to the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, he said: “Richard Thomas…clearly outlined his policy in respect of private detectives and journalists who ‘blag’ confidential details from banks and telecom companies. They will face unlimited fines and possible imprisonment.”

In January of this year a consultation ended that sought views on tightening Section 55 of the Data Protection Act to bring in those tougher penalties to include up to two years in prison.

In its response to the consultation in November last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “The penalty for section 55 was not increased immediately, but section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 gave the Secretary of State the power by order to introduce custodial sentences, for unlawful obtaining etc. of personal information. The Information Commissioner believed then that custodial sentences were needed and continues to do so.”

In fact, April saw the introduction of powers for the Information Commissioner to introduce fines of up to £500,000. In relation to custodial sentences, watch this space.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:13