If you collect and process personal data, you must (unless exempt) make a data protection notification. You must notify certain details (such as your name and address, a description of personal data being processed and a description of the purpose for which the data is being processed) to the Information Commissioner.

If you process personal data without notification (or outside the scope of your notification) you are committing a criminal offence. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine in the magistrates’ court and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court. Failure to notify is a strict liability offence which means that notifying is mandatory (if you don’t fall within an exemption) and being unaware of the law is not an excuse.

The main exemption for a small private business is the ‘core business purpose’ exemption, that is, you are exempt if the only reasons you are processing personal data are for:

  • Staff administration; and/or
  • Advertising, marketing and public relations; and/or
  • Accounts and records.

The period of notification is one year. There is an annual fee of £35. Changes to a notification entry must be made within 28 days. Changes are made free of charge.

Beware of bogus agencies sending out official looking warning letters about notification and charging inflated fees to notify on your behalf. Always deal directly with the Information Commissioner’s Office – it is cheaper and better to do so. You can notify on the ICO website  or by phone on 01625 545740.

Even if you are exempt from notification you must still comply with other provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998, including the eight data protection principles.

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