ICO will investigate only certain types of complaints

The ICO’s latest consultation, launched on 18 December, introduces some subtle changes to the current complaints handling system. The ICO says that due to the volume of enquiries and complaints, and having to make most of its limited resources, it plans to investigate only where it suspects a serious contravention of the Data Protection Act, or where organisations make mistakes repeatedly.

The ICO hopes that in a majority of cases, a member of the public making the complaint can deal directly with the organisation in question. The ICO would offer advice to both parties and ask the organisation to take ownership of the issue.

“If we think an organisation needs to improve its practices we will contact them to explain why we think that is the case. Where appropriate we may ask an organisation to commit to an action plan or undertaking, to be published on our website, explaining the work they are doing to improve their practices. If appropriate we will consider further enforcement action,” the ICO says.

Part of this new strategy would be to increase enforcement cooperation with other regulators and trade bodies.

Even if individual complaints would not be dealt with by the ICO, the complaints will help to identify trends and emerging issues that need to be followed up, the ICO says. At present, the ICO estimates that only 35% of all the complaints received in 2012/13 represented a contravention of the law.

The ICO plans to change its complaint handling system from 1 April 2014. The consultation seeks views on the positive and negative impact of these plans on organisations.

The consultation closes on 31 January 2014.