Have you suffered as a result of a data breach? You may be due compensation

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Slightly reminiscent of the “have you had an accident at work that wasn’t your fault” campaigns of injury lawyers, a law firm in Widnes has filed a lawsuit against Ticketmaster in relation to a security breach it suffered on the Live Nation website last year. Hayes Connor Solicitors are asking for anyone affected by the breach to come forward as they may be due compensation. In fact it has already filed a lawsuit seeking up to £5m in damages on behalf of 650 Ticketmaster customers (exact numbers of data subjects affected by the breach is not clear, but some suggest as many as 40,000 Ticketmaster users were affected, mostly from the UK).

This isn’t the first case of this kind. The most significant data protection damages case in the last year or so was of course the Morrisons case. In that case Morrisons wasn’t at fault as the breach occurred when an employee stole payroll records (he’s now serving a prison sentence), but damages were sought against Morrisons and the courts have found Morrisons to have vicarious liability. The case is currently being appealed.

Regardless of your thoughts about “ambulance chasing” the GDPR (and previous data protection law) allows for it. In particular Chapter VIII of the GDPR sets out the “remedies, liability and penalties”, with Article 82 setting out the “right to compensation and liability” which says:

Any person who has suffered material or non-material damage as a result of an infringement of this Regulation shall have the right to receive compensation from the controller or processor for the damage suffered.

So, if you suffer a data breach you face a triple whammy:

  1. Loss of credibility, bad PR etc. which could impact your business in terms of trust of existing and future customers
  2. Threat of an investigation and/or GDPR fine from the supervisory authority (that’s the ICO in the UK) – remember if you suffer a breach you may have to report it to the ICO and your customers
  3. Threat of legal action from the data subjects (customers, employees, etc. depending on whose data has been breached) for damages

The answer of course is not to have a data breach, but sometimes it’s not as simple as that. With a regular flow of media reports of the latest cyber-security threats, reports highlighting the cyber-security risk to SME, as well as an indication that the UK is the third largest reporter of data breaches businesses are up against it and for some (particularly the unprepared) it’s more a question of “when” rather than “if” they suffer a data breach.

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