The ICO is an independent regulator and our focus is on supporting organisations to meet their legal requirements. However, in order to uphold information rights for the UK public, it is sometimes necessary for us to take appropriate and proportionate regulatory action. In the digital age, the quantity and complexity of cases requiring enforcement action has increased significantly. As the regulator it is essential we keep pace with changing trends and ensure we have the right technical and legal capacity to hold even the largest global organisations to account.
To make sure we are able to continue to take action when needed, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), our sponsor department, and the Treasury (HMT) have agreed that we are now able to retain some of the funds paid as a result of our civil monetary penalties. Previously, all the income from these fines was passed to the Government’s central Consolidated Fund. From this year, we will be able to keep some funds to cover pre-agreed, specific and externally audited litigation costs.
There is a cap on the amount of costs that can be recovered in any one financial year (£7.5m) and we will be audited by the National Audit Office to make sure we have only recovered the costs we are allowed to. We will also report on the level of fines and our associated costs in our Annual Report and to HMT on an annual basis. A similar arrangement already exists for other UK regulators.
This change means we can make sure we have the right resources to hold those who don’t comply to account. The world is becoming more complex and funding our legal costs will support us in litigating complicated and difficult cases. The additional funds will also allow us to make sure that more of the charges paid by small businesses can be used to directly fund our business advice and support services.
James Dipple Johnstone, Chief Regulatory Officer, said:
“Being able to recover some of our litigation costs will form an important part of ensuring that the ICO has the right tools to do our job. We are on the side of the public and responsible businesses and being well resourced to take action can give everyone the confidence that, where appropriate, we will act effectively to uphold rights.”