In a UK first, a victim of misdirected and non compliant marketing calls has won compensation under the Data Protection Act 1998. It was unlucky section 13 of that statute for Littlewoods’ Everyday Financial Solutions as Stephen Groom reports
Who: Littlewoods Shop Direct Group and Dave King
When: May 2007
Law stated as at: 30 May 2007
Dave King lived in Manchester. Just before Christmas 2006, he started receiving calls from Everyday Financial Solutions, the financial services arm of Littlewoods Shop Direct Group.
Every time the call was made, and on one day King received no less than 16, the caller asked for somebody other than Dave. So Littlewoods' database was clearly incorrect but no matter how many times Dave asked them to update their records and suppress his number, the calls kept on coming.
Eventually Dave had to pay BT to put a block on calls from Littlewoods and then he issued proceedings under section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 ("Act").
Section 13 (1) states:
"An individual who suffers damage by reason of any contravention by a data controller of any requirements of this Act is entitled to compensation from the data controller for that damage."
Section 13 (2) states:
"An individual who suffers distress by reason of any contravention of any of the requirements of this Act is entitled to compensation form the data controller for that distress if
(a) the individual also suffers damage by reason of the contravention … "
What was the contravention here? There were arguably two.
First under section 4 and Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Act, data controllers are obliged to keep personal data accurate and up to date.
Secondly under section 11 (1) of the Act an individual is entitled by notice in writing to a data controller to require the data controller at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances to cease, or not to begin, processing for the purposes of direct marketing personal data in respect of which he is the data subject.
Before the matter came to court, Littlewoods settled by paying King £150 and agreeing to remove King's details from its databases.
Why this matters:
This is the first reported UK case in which an individual has brought proceedings under data protection legislation for damages in respect of unwanted telemarketing calls. Perhaps it will not be the last and we are seeing a similar trend here to what is happening by way of enforcement of the UK's opt in/opt out laws for email marketing. In the face of inaction by public regulatory bodies such as the Information Commissioner's Office, individuals with sufficient gumption and determination are taking up the cudgels themselves and humbling ever bigger fry in or at the doors of the courts.