A motor industry employee has been sentenced to six months in prison in the first prosecution to be brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under legislation which carries a potential prison sentence.

Mustafa Kasim, who worked for accident repair firm Nationwide Accident Repair Services (NARS), accessed thousands of  customer records containing personal data without permission, using his colleagues’ log-in details to access a software system that estimates the cost of vehicle repairs, known as Audatex.

He continued to do this after he started a new job at a different car repair organisation which used the same software system.  The records contained customers’ names, phone numbers, vehicle and accident information.

NARS contacted the ICO when they saw an increase in customer complaints about nuisance calls and assisted the ICO with their investigation.

The ICO usually prosecutes cases like this under the Data Protection Act 1998 or 2018, depending on the individual case.  However,  in appropriate cases, it can prosecute under other legislation - in this case s.1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990  - to reflect the nature and extent of the offending and for the sentencing Court to have a wider range of penalties available.

Mike Shaw, Group Manager Criminal Invesitgations Team at the ICO said:

”People who think it’s worth their while to obtain and disclose personal data without permission should think again.

“Although this was a data protection issue, in this case we were able to prosecute beyond data protection laws resulting in a tougher penalty to reflect the nature of the criminal behaviour.

“Members of the public and organisations can be assured that we will push the boundaries and use any tool at our disposal to protect their rights.

“Data obtained in these circumstances is a valuable commodity, and there was evidence of customers receiving unwarranted calls from claims management companies causing unnecessary anxiety and distress. 

“The potential reputational damage to affected companies whose data is stolen in this way can be immeasurable. Both Nationwide Accident Repair Services and Audatex have put appropriate technical and organisational measures in place to ensure that this cannot happen again.”

Mr Kasim pleaded guilty to a charge of securing unauthorised access to personal data between 13 January 2016 and 19 October 2016, at a hearing in September 2018 and was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court.

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to recover any benefit obtained as a result of the offending, have been commenced and are ongoing.

If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070, or visit the media section on our website.

Notes to Editors

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. S.1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 refers to causing a computer to perform a function with intent to secure access to any program or data held on that computer.  It carries a custodial sentence of up to 2 years.
  5. Under past and current law, the ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
  6. Since 25 May 2018, the ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty (CMP) on a data controller of up to £17 million (20m Euro) or 4% of global turnover.
  7. The GDPR and the DPA 2018 gave the ICO new strengthened powers, some of which, such as assessment notices can be used for this investigation.
  8. 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”;
    • Article 5(2) requires that “the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles”; and
    • Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) under past and current law are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  9. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by ICO.
  10. To report a concern to the ICO go to ico.org.uk/concerns.