Data protection disaster looms for thousands

Thousands of firms have still not informed the information commissioner that
they hold key client information on databases, despite previous warnings that
they will face fines and prosecution for failing to do so.

Accountancy Age revealed in July that less than half of the UK’s
20,000 firms had registered with the information commissioner, under the Data
Protection Act, to store clients’ personal information on their IT systems.
Hundreds of firms were prompted into action during the last three months.

The latest figures from the information commissioner’s office have shown a
marked improvement on registrations. Nearly 11,000 firms have registered under
the Data Protection Act, with around 1,000 new registrants in the last three

Yet there are still concerns that as many as 9,000 firms have not registered.
Firms face prosecution and fines if they do not sign up.

ICO chief operating officer Simon Entwisle warned that, although the ICO
would give accountants a little more time, it would not be long before it takes
take further action.

‘We think it still leaves a significant minority who have not registered, a
concern for the ICO and the accounting profession.’

The aggressive targeting of professions has paid dividends in the past. A
campaign to push up registration among law firms, which led to the prosecution
and fining of several solicitors and saw registrations rocket.

In March, Ralph Harold Donner,of solicitors Feld Mackay and Donner, was fined
£3,150 and ordered to pay £3,500 towards prosecution costs for failure to notify
the commissioner.

ICAEW head of business law, Felicity Banks, who has worked with the ICO in
recent months to promote registration, said she ‘hopes and expects’ many of the
new registrants were institute members.

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires every business processing personal
information to notify the ICO. This costs £35 a year.

Accountants have also been warned to watch out for bogus agencies requesting
£135 for registration. The agencies make requests on ‘official-looking’ headed

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