The ICO has issued the first fines for not paying the data protection fee to organisations across a range of sectors including business services, construction, finance, health and childcare.

All organisations, companies and sole traders that process personal data must pay an annual fee to the ICO unless they are exempt. Fines for not paying can be up to a maximum of £4,350.

This follows regulations which came into force alongside the new Data Protection Act on 25 May 2018.

These first organisations have been fined for not renewing their fees following their expiry and more fines are set to follow. More than 900 notices of intent to fine have been issued by the ICO since September and more than 100 penalty notices are being issued in this first round.

The money collected from the data protection fee funds the ICO’s work to uphold information rights such as investigations into data breaches and complaints, our popular advice line, and guidance and resources for organisations to help them understand and comply with their data protection obligations. The ICO has grown over the last two years to meet its wider data protection remit and responsibilities following GDPR. It now employs 670 staff.

Paul Arnold, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the ICO, said:

"Following numerous attempts to collect the fees via our robust collection process, we are now left with no option but to issue fines to these organisations. They must now pay these fines within 28 days or risk further legal action.

“You are breaking the law if you process personal data or are responsible for processing it and do not pay the data protection fee to the ICO. We produce lots of guidance for organisations on our website to help them decide whether they need to pay and how they can do this."

Fines range from £400 to £4,000 depending on the size and turnover of the organisation. Aggravating factors may lead to an increase in the fine up to a maximum of £4,350. All fines recovered do not go to the ICO, they go to the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund.

The data protection fee is set by Government which has a statutory duty to ensure the ICO is adequately funded, and is part of the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018. It came into force on 25 May to coincide with the new Data Protection Act (2018) and the General Data Protection Regulation. And it replaces the need to notify or register with the ICO.

Under the funding model, set by Government, organisations are divided into three tiers based on their size, turnover and whether it is a public authority or charity.

For very small organisations, the fee won’t be any higher than the £35 they paid before May 2018 (if they take advantage of a £5 reduction for paying by direct debit).

Larger organisations will be required to pay £2,900. The fee is higher because these organisations are likely to hold and process the largest volumes of data and therefore represent a greater level of risk.

If you’re not sure whether you need to pay the fee, you should check the ICO’s website which has lots of information and a very quick and easy self-assessment test.

Organisations that have a current registration (or notification) under the 1998 Act – prior to 25 May 2018 – do not have to pay the new fee until that registration has expired. You can check if your fee is due for renewal here.

Notes to editors

  1. The fees and fines are:
      • Tier 1 – micro organisations. Maximum turnover of £632,000 or no more than ten members of staff. Fee: £40 Fine: £400
      • Tier 2 – SMEs. Maximum turnover of £36million or no more than 250 members of staff. Fee: £60 Fine: £600
      • Tier 3 – large organisations. Those not meeting the criteria of Tiers 1 or 2. Fee: £2,900. Fine £4,000

    There is a £5 discount for payments by direct debit.

  2. Failure to pay the data protection fee is now a civil offence under the GDPR, previously this was a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act 1998.

  3. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  4. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR).
  5. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law which applies in the UK from 25 May 2018. Its provisions are included in the Data Protection Act 2018. The Act also includes measures related to wider data protection reforms in areas not covered by the GDPR, such as law enforcement and security. The UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  6. The data protection principles in the GDPR evolved from the original DPA, and set out the main responsibilities for organisations. Article 5 of the GDPR requires that personal data shall be:
    • Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;
    • Collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes;
    • Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;
    • Accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date;
    • Kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary; 
    • Processed using appropriate technical or organisational measures in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data; and
    • Article 5(2) requires that “the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles.”
  7. To report a concern to the ICO go to ico.org.uk/concerns.