Merfyn Pugh Estate Agents pleaded guilty (1.12.11) to the offence of failing to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that his business processes personal data.

John Merfyn Pugh of the Estate Agents  Merfyn Pugh was prosecuted under section 17 of the Data Protection Act.

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires every organisation or person who is processing personal information in an automated form to notify, unless they are exempt. Failure to notify is a criminal offence and could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court, or unlimited fines in a Crown Court.

Mr Pugh was given a conditional discharge of six months and was ordered to pay £614 towards prosecution costs.

If Mr Pugh had completed the required paperwork his costs would have been only £35 and he would have avoided a criminal record as well as damages to his business’s reputation damaged

Assistant information Commissioner for Wales, Anne Jones, said:

“Registering as a data controller is a basic legal requirement of the Data Protection Act. The fee for most businesses is £35 a year. Merfyn Pugh Estate Agents’ failure to register – even after being prompted to do so by the ICO – has cost them much more today. The message behind today’s prosecution is clear – ignore warnings and you too could end up in court.”

All organisations that handle personal data but have not yet registered as a data controller should proactively contact the ICO to ensure they are complying with the law. Some organisations will be exempt.