Written by David Marchese
The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a salutary reminder of what the consequences can be of taking client contact data with you when you change jobs.
A former recruitment consultant recently pleaded guilty to taking client contact data to her new job. The individual was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which makes it a criminal offence to obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller. It is, however, a defence if the individual can show they acted in the reasonable belief that they had in law the right to obtain or disclose the data, or that they would have had the consent of the data controller if the data controller had known of it.
In this case, the individual emailed the details of over 100 clients to her personal email address and then used the information to contact them when she started work at a rival company. The individual told the court she hadn’t meant to intentionally cause harm and was sorry for what had happened, but was fined £200, ordered to pay £214 prosecution costs and a £30 victim surcharge. The individual subsequently lost her new job.
A spokesman for the ICO said: “Taking clients’ personal information when you change jobs for your own benefit or the benefit of the company is against the law.”
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I graduated from Oxford University before qualifying as a solicitor at Herbert Smith. I went on to work at Richards Butler and then Davenport Lyons, before joining Gordon Dadds in 2014. I have extensive experience advising on the law of intellectual property, information technology and commercial contracts. I am the author of Business Licensing Agreements (Longman, 1995), the section on Supply of Goods and Services in Practical Commercial Precedents (Sweet & Maxwell) and several published articles including Joint Ownership of Intellectual Property (EIPR, 1999) and Warranties and Covenants in IP Licences (OUP, 2009).