European Union: Happy Birthday GDPR – One Year On

Last Updated: 7 June 2019
Article by Joanna Boag-Thomson and Paul Carlyle

According to statistics released by the European Commission earlier in 2019, the term "GDPR" amassed more Google searches than either Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian during the month of May 2018.

Now that "GDPR" has become a household term, what have we learnt in the 12 months since the introduction of the GDPR?

1. Fines and complaints

The significant penalties that could be imposed under the new GDPR regime (the higher of €20m or 4% of worldwide turnover) grabbed the headlines but regulators have been slow on the uptake.

In January 2019, the French data protection authority (CNIL) imposed a fine of €50 million on Google for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent in relation to personalisation of adverts.

Beyond that, the largest fine to date was a fine of 400,000 euros imposed on a Portuguese hospital for failure to manage who had access to sensitive patient data. We have also seen a data processor in Poland being fined €220,000 for failures in respect of its information obligations.

The ICO has also imposed a number of fines for failure to pay the data protection fee under the new regime. In a recent appeal against such a fine, the Information Tribunal made it clear that the fact that the relevant person was on holiday did not mitigate against the failure to pay.

Other data protection fines announced in recent months have been decided under the 1998 Data Protection Act, however the ICO has indicated that the UK's first significant fine under the GDPR will be imposed in the coming weeks.

2. Enforcement priorities

The ICO recently indicated that its enforcement priorities include examining whether the online advertising industry is transparent and fair, and looking at whether companies are following the GDPR's strengthened privacy protections for children. Elizabeth Denham, the UK's Information Commissioner, has also indicated an interest in reviewing public sector data sharing.

These areas of focus do not mean that other businesses can ignore GDPR compliance! While the ICO has had to address some under-staffing issues in the aftermath of the implementation of GDPR, we understand that it has recruited more staff and is in a better position to be proactive.

3. Data breaches

Mandatory data breach notification under the GDPR has meant that the number of data breaches being reported to regulators has risen exponentially. The ICO received 4,056 data breach reports in the 3-month period 1 July to 30 September 2018 (the most recent figures available), and figures from the European Commission suggest that more than 95,000 breaches were reported to data protection authorities across Europe by the end of 2018.

We notice that clients find it difficult to decide whether a breach is reportable and tend to over-report rather than analysing whether a report to the ICO is strictly required.

4. Contractual requirements

Getting houses in order with suppliers and data processors was the item that fell to the back of the queue in terms of preparing for the GDPR. Many data controllers focussed on privacy notices and processing records in the run-up to GDPR last year and are only now reviewing supply chain arrangements to ensure that the contracts comply with GDPR.

5. The rise - and rise - of the informed citizen

Few people take the time to read privacy notices or to try to understand what use is being made of their data – however, they do understand that they have enhanced rights.

Complaints to the ICO increased 200% in the first two months following the introduction of the GDPR. According to the European Commission, the most frequent areas for complaints from individuals were telemarketing, promotional emails and CCTV surveillance.

The ICO has also just launched its "Be Data Aware" campaign, helping people to understand how their information might be used in an online context.

6. Claims by individuals

In Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants (a case under the Data Protection Act 1998), the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision against Morrisons to the effect that, although Morrisons was not directly liable for the data protection breach, it was vicariously liable for the actions of its rogue employee. The Court of Appeal commented that the solution for employers is to be properly insured. This important case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Separately, in Lloyd v Google the High Court made it clear that compensation claims are based on damage suffered – they are not about censuring the data controller. The Court did not allow the representative action in this case (the class was envisaged to be several million potential claimants) because not all of the individuals would have suffered the same damage.

As the GDPR makes individual and class actions easier, the decisions in both of these cases will be crucial to how this develops in the UK.

7. Increase in data subject access requests (DSARs)

Generally it is difficult to obtain information about numbers of subject access requests but it would appear from anecdotal information that the number of subject access requests is on the rise since the introduction of the GDPR.

Our own experience is that clients are receiving more DSARs than they did under the old regime, and that responding to DSARs is taking up significant time and resource. Individuals with a grievance against a company are using DSARs as an additional line of attack and commercial DSAR aggregators are now entering the marketplace, allowing an individual to send a number of automated DSARs to a range of organisations.

8. The future

Although the GDPR has been in force for a year now, we are still awaiting further guidance from the ICO. A number of key ICO guides are still to be developed – e.g. the updated Direct Marketing Code of Practice and DSARs Guidance – as well as new ones such as that on Age Appropriate Design. Similarly, the European Data Protection Board (the body of European Regulators) continues to issue guidance that is shaping how privacy practitioners interpret the GDPR.

The E-Privacy Regulation – the update to the current E-Privacy Directive – remains under discussion so, at present, we have two different fine regimes depending on the type of offence.

9. EU and Brexit

While the Data Protection Act 2018 was the UK's attempt to ensure that data protection was "Brexit-proof", a number of uncertainties remain around the UK's status following its departure from the EU. This will be heightened if there is a "no-deal Brexit".

UK-based businesses that process personal data of EEA citizens will need to consider appointing an EU Representative and reviewing data import and export arrangements.

Under GDPR, businesses outside the EEA processing EEA personal data should already have appointed an EU representative.

10. What next for you?

  • Review your privacy policies – internal and external – do they still cover all that you do?
  • Implement supply chain contract remediation (if not already done)
  • Review your data breaches log – does your breach notification process work? What lessons can be learned and actions taken on the basis of breaches to date?
  • Review processes for dealing with DSARs – are they efficient and are your responses legally compliant?
  • Ensure your GDPR compliance records are up to date – processing, breaches and DSARs registers in particular
  • Check that you have properly registered and paid the right fee to the ICO for any subsidiaries
  • Take action if you need to appoint an EU Representative.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions