ICO announces new data protection fining guidance March’24

ICO announces new data protection fining guidance March’24

The Information Commissioner’s Office unveils new data protection fining guidelines, offering clarity on penalty issuance and fine calculation, enhancing transparency for organizations. The new guidance is issued to replace sections of the ICO Regulatory Action Policy, published in November 2018.

With data breaches and privacy infringements increasingly making headlines, regulatory authorities worldwide have bolstered their oversight to ensure strict adherence to data protection laws. Thus, understanding the ICO’s stance on fines is essential for organizations to ensure compliance and mitigate risks effectively. Read this article to explore the new data protection fining guidance  from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued in March 2024, shedding light on its approach to fines and enforcement strategies. 


Deciphering ICO’s latest data protection fines

In the United Kingdom, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) holds a pivotal role in enforcing regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), wielding the authority to levy fines for any infringements.

Under the UK GDPR and DPA, the ICO possesses the ability to impose fines for infringements, ranging from failures to implement adequate security measures to unauthorised data processing. These fines serve the dual purpose of penalising non-compliance and deterring future violations. Consequently, simplifying the navigation of legislation.

At the core of the ICO’s enforcement strategy lies the concept of an ‘undertaking,’ which encompasses any entity engaged in economic activities. This expansive definition ensures the accurate calculation of fines. Thus, uniformly applying it across organizations of varying sizes and legal structures.


The five fundamental steps for effective enforcement and compliance

The ICO adheres to a structured approach outlined in its Data Protection Fining Guidance. The steps are as follows : 

  1. Assessment of the seriousness of the infringement: For instance, in the scenario where a healthcare provider inadvertently exposes sensitive patient data due to weak internal access control procedures, the ICO evaluates the severity of the breach. It considers factors such as the volume of data compromised, the sensitivity of the information, and the potential harm to individuals. 
  2. Consideration of turnover: In assessing fines, the ICO factors in the turnover of larger organizations, ensuring fines are commensurate with their financial capacity while serving as an effective deterrent. 
  3. Calculation of the starting point: For instance, if a major corporation engages in systemic data misuse for financial gain, the ICO may impose a substantial fine to deter similar misconduct by other entities operating within the same sector.
  4. Assessment of aggravating or mitigating factors: The ICO takes into account various factors, such as the organisation’s response to the breach and its cooperation during investigations, which may warrant an increase or decrease in the fine.
  5. Adjustment to ensure effectiveness: Finally, the ICO evaluates fines to strike the right balance between deterrence and proportionality, ensuring they are sufficient to achieve their intended objectives without exceeding the statutory maximum amount. 


Hints and Tips for Organisations: 

  • Prioritize Data Protection: Allocate adequate resources and establish clear policies to prioritise data protection within your organisation. 
  • Stay Informed: Keep track of updates on developments in data protection regulations. Especially, issued by authorities such as the ICO to ensure ongoing compliance with evolving requirements. 
  • Conduct Regular Risk Assessments: Regularly assess your organisation’s data processing activities and associated risks. The assessments will help identify potential compliance gaps and take corrective action proactively. 
  • Invest in Training: Provide comprehensive training and awareness programs for employees. This step will ensure their responsibilities and obligations under data protection laws. 
  • Implement Robust Security Measures: Prevent data breaches and unauthorised access to sensitive information by deploying advanced security measures.
  • Engage Legal Counsel: Seek guidance from legal experts specializing in data protection. It is essential to obtain advice tailored to your organisation’s specific circumstances and compliance needs. 
  • Maintain Documentation: Keep detailed records of your organisation’s data processing activities, risk assessments, and compliance efforts. This process will help demonstrate accountability and transparency to regulatory authorities. 


Examples of Fines: 

  1. In 2023, the ICO imposed a fine of £20 million on a telecommunications company. The company had unlawfully sent millions of marketing messages, reflecting both the severity of the breach and the company’s significant turnover.
  2. A healthcare provider faced a £10 million fine by ICO. The organisation was accused of exposing patient records due to inadequate security measures.

This highlights the ICO’s commitment to enforcing data protection laws across diverse sectors. 


The ICO’s latest guidance on Data Protection Fining offers a comprehensive roadmap for organisations abiding by GDPR and DPA compliance. Adhering to the structured approach outlined can ensure robust data protection measures, mitigation of risks, and maintenance of trust. 

Seeking guidance from a Data Protection Officer (DPO) provides invaluable insights and assistance in implementing effective compliance strategies. DPOs offer practical advice on risk assessments, policy formulation, and staff training. 

Have questions on compliance and ICO fines? Submit your query at  info@tenintel.com and let our seasoned DPO experts help you.