GDPR penalties and fines
The GDPR imposes significant fines for companies that violate its provisions, including up to 4% of a company’s global annual revenue or €20 million, whichever is greater.
As a result, companies that process the personal data of EU citizens (or are subject to the GDPR’s jurisdiction) must take significant steps to ensure that they comply with the law’s provisions.
However, not all GDPR infringements lead to data protection fines. Supervisory authorities such as the Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland has a range of corrective powers and sanctions to enforce the GDPR. These include:
- Issuing warnings and reprimands.
- Imposing a temporary or permanent ban on data processing.
- Ordering the rectification, restriction or erasure of data; and
- Suspending data transfers to third countries.
In addition, data subjects have a right to take legal proceedings against a controller or a processor if he or she believes that his or her rights under GDPR have been infringed.
What is the maximum GDPR fine?
There are two tiers of administrative fines that can be levied as penalties for non-compliance:
- Up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.
- Up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.
The fines are based on the specific articles of the Regulation that the organisation has breached and calculated in the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year.
Infringements of the organisation’s obligations, including reporting of data security breaches, will be subject to the lower level, whereas infringements of an individual’s privacy rights will be subject to the higher level.
How are GDPR fines applied?
When deciding whether to impose a fine and the level, the Data Protection Commission (DPC) must consider:
- The nature, gravity, and duration of the infringement.
- The intentional or negligent character of the infringement.
- Any action taken by the organisation to mitigate the damage suffered by individuals.
- Degree of responsability of the controller or processor taking into technical and organisational measures that have been implemented by them.
- Any previous infringements by the organisation or data processor.
- The degree of cooperation with the supervisory authority to remedy the infringement.
- The types of personal data involved.
- The manner in which the infringement became known to the DPC, in particular whether and to what extent the organisation notified the infringement.
- Compliance, or non-compliance, with any measures previously ordered by the DPC.
- Adherence to approved codes of conduct or approved certification schemes.
- Any other factors applicable, such as financial benefits gained or losses avoided, from the infringement.
Learn more about the steps you need to take to comply with the GDPR
Liability for damages
The GDPR also gives individuals the right to compensation of any material and/or non-material damages resulting from an infringement of the GDPR.
Where the processing may give rise to discrimination, identity theft, financial loss, damage to reputation or any other significant economic or social disadvantage, where individuals might be deprived of their rights and freedoms.
In certain cases, not-for-profit bodies can bring representative action on behalf of individuals. This opens the door for mass claims in cases of large-scale infringements.
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As well as risking regulatory action for breaches, organisations face reputational damage and remediation costs. There is also the possibility of legal action from data subjects.
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