Who: UK Government
When: from 12 March 2015
Law stated as at: 16 March 2015
The £5000 cap on magistrate’s court fines for a raft of offences, including breaches of the UK’s most important advertising and data laws, has been scrapped.
On 12 March 2015, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Commencement No.11) Order 2015 (SI 2015.504) became law.
The effect of this was to immediately bring into force s.85(1),(2) and (4) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
This means that from 12 March 2015, magistrates have had the power to impose unlimited fines for breaches of key “public laws” impacting UK advertisers such as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (“CPRs”) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (“BPMMRs”).
The new powers also apply to offences against the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and the Data Protection Act 1998 as well as the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 . They are also likely to apply to breaches of the Consumer Rights Bill once it comes into force in October 2015.
The change will apply to all offences committed after 11 March 2015.
Why this matters:
The stakes are now much higher for businesses which fall foul of UK advertising, trading and data privacy laws.
Also at higher risk are their directors and senior managers and any individuals purporting to act in that capacity. This is because they, too, will for the most part be at risk of unlimited fines if either the offence can be shown to be attributable to any neglect on their part or they can be shown to have “consented to or connived at” the commission of the offence.
Advertisers and traders who have in the past taken a calculated risk on the basis that the penalty may not be too eye-watering will need to think again, whilst responsible businesses may want to reassess their risk control and management systems.