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How are Damages for “Distress” Assessed under DPA?

Where an employer has breached the Data Protection Act 1998 in respect of an employee, are damages for “distress” to be assessed by the Court in the same way as injury to feelings awards in discrimination cases?  

In Halliday v Creation Consumer Finance, the Court of Appeal decided that that was not the case.  This was not an employment case but arose out of information wrongly disseminated as a consequence of a consumer credit agreement. As a matter of general principle when there has been a breach of the DPA there ought to be an award of damages but the intention of the legislation was not that substantial damage awards should be made.

In this case Lady Justice Arden also considered that the Vento and  Da’Bell  case law which deals with injury to feelings awards in discrimination cases ought not to apply to distress claims under the Data Protection Act.  She stated that “discrimination is generally accompanied by loss of equality of opportunity with far-reaching effects and is liable to cause distinct and well-known distress to the complainant” whereas a breach of the Data Protection Act typically causes frustration to the complainant by the non-compliance with the Act.

This is welcome news for all data processors, information lawyers and employers.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Monday 14th October 2013
Categorised: Information Law

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