Data Protection Commissioner

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Making a Complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner

What happens if someone refuses to correct inaccurate information which they hold about you? What can you do if someone refuses to give you a copy of what they keep about you?

The Data Protection Commissioner will help you in ensuring that your legal rights are fully upheld, and that organisations meet their obligations under the Data Protection Acts. If you think that a person or organisation is not meeting their data protection obligations, and if you are not satisfied with their response to your concerns, then you may complain to the Commissioner, who will look into the matter for you. If the Commissioner upholds your complaint, he has legal powers to ensure that these matters are put right.

Click on one of the links below for more information about making a complaint.

How do I make a complaint?

Making a complaint is simple and free. All you need to do is write to the Data Protection Commissioner giving details about the matter. You should clearly identify the organisation or individual you are complaining about. You should also outline the steps you have taken to have your concerns dealt with by the organisation, and what sort of response you received from them. Please also provide copies of any letters between you and the organisation, as well as supporting evidence/material.  We will then take the matter up with the organisation for you.

You can also visit our forms section, where you may download a standard complaint form or complete the on-line form which you may find more convenient for setting out your complaint.

If your complaint is about unsolicited marketing by post, phone, fax, e-mail, SMS or MMS, you will find further information here.

How long does it take to investigate a complaint?

Each investigation is unique, and it is very hard to say in advance how long each will take. Some complaints can be resolved very quickly and informally, in a matter of weeks. Other complaints might raise important issues, and might involve in-depth investigation and careful consideration of legal issues. Such complaints might take several months to bring to a conclusion.

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How will I be informed of the outcome of my complaint?

Where your complaint is about the breach of the Data Protection Acts, the Commissioner will first try to find a solution that both you and the organisation you are complaining about can accept.  The Office will contact you to ask if you are satisfied with the suggested solution.  In cases where an amicable resolution or an informal settlement of the complaint cannot be reached, the Data Protection Commissioner will make a full investigation of all the facts before making his Decision. When the investigation is finished, and the Commissioner has reached his conclusions, he will write to you informing you of his Decision. 

Where your complaint is about a breach of the Electronic Communications Regulations (SI 336 of 2011), the Commissioner may decide to prosecute the organisation concerned.  The Office may ask if you would be willing to give evidence in Court to support such a prosecution.

If the Commissioner believes that your complaint can best be dealt with by another agency, the Office will tell you how to contact that agency.

The Commissioner may decide not to investigate your complaint if he thinks it is not serious ("frivolous or vexatious" is the term used in the Data Protection Acts).  This does not happen very often.  If it does, you will be told by this Office. 

What happens if my complaint is upheld?

If the Commissioner upholds your complaint, or upholds some parts of your complaint, then the organisation in question will need to comply with the Commissioner's findings. The Commissioner has powers to ensure that organisations act in accordance with data protection law.

Will the organisation be punished if my complaint is upheld?

The Commissioner's main priority is to make sure that an organisation respects your rights and puts matters right. Most breaches of the Data Protection Acts are not offences.  This means that an organisation cannot be punished by the Courts.  The Courts may punish an organisation that does not obey a legal order of the Data Protection Commissioner.  The Courts may also punish breaches of the Electronic Communications Regulations (SI 336 of 2011).  Such offences may be prosecuted by the Commissioner. [view more...]

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If my complaint is upheld, am I entitled to compensation?

The Data Protection Commissioner has no role whatsoever in dealing with compensation claims. Where the Commissioner upholds or partially upholds your complaint against an organisation, that does not give you a right to compensation.

However, if you suffer damage through the mishandling of your personal information, then you may be entitled to claim compensation separately through the Courts. Section 7 of the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003, makes it clear that organisations who hold your personal data owe you a duty of care. If you would like to pursue a compensation claim against an organisation which has mishandled your personal data, you should talk to a legal adviser.

What happens if my complaint is not upheld?

If the Data Protection Commissioner does not uphold your complaint, he will inform you of this in writing. If you disagree with the Commissioner's finding, you have a right of appeal to the Circuit Court.  [view more...]

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