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Company Directors Oblivious to New Data Protection Rules

15 Nov 2017

A survey carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) has suggested that almost a third of company directors have not heard of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


The IoD surveyed almost 900 businesses and found that four in ten company directors don’t know if their business will be affected by the new data protection rules. It also discovered that half of directors have not discussed GDPR compliance arrangements with individuals with whom they share data.  


The New Regulation


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018, this will see a major overhaul of the data protection rules and will have a significant impact for all companies who deal with data in any form. The new regulation includes more rights for individuals and provisions which promote accountability and governance, with a view to minimising the occurrence of breaches.


Whilst the GDPR is reflective of the existing data protection laws, it is more onerous and also gives the Information Commissioner greater enforcement powers. In particular, businesses who fail to comply with the GDPR will face fines of up to €20 million, or up to 4% of total annual worldwide revenue, whichever is the greater.


Commenting on the findings, Jamie Kerr, Head of External Affairs at the IoD, said:


‘It was clear from the outset that this would be a mammoth task for small and large businesses alike, but the scale of the challenge has not necessarily translated into preparedness for the new regulation, despite the huge costs of non-compliance.


It is crucial everyone understands just how big this regulatory change will be for business leaders over the next few months.’


Director’s Responsibilities


The purpose of the law is to protect individual privacy, but its effects on board-level corporate governance are extensive. This is because the board is held responsible for the implementation of GDPR compliant policies and for auditing them.


In addition to large fines, damage to a corporate’s reputation could also be considerable. Directors may also be held personally liable and, under certain circumstances, can face criminal charges for non-compliance. Even if no criminal charge is made, a director’s inability to ensure protection of personal data may be considered a failure to exercise reasonable care and diligence, and that could result in action for damages, termination or disqualification.


Given the significant complexity and number of rules that GDPR imposes on boards, we advise businesses to not wait to allocate budget, select the Data Protection Officer, and begin taking data inventory, along with planning all the structural changes that compliance may require.


If you are a director and require advice on compliance with the GDPR, please do not hesitate to contact; Andrew Swan - Head of Regulation and Financial Crime at Short, Richardson & Forth at Sheila Ramshaw - Specialist in Regulation at or 0191 232 0283.

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Short Richardson & Forth, 4 Mosley Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1DE

Tel: +44 (0)191 232 0283  ·  Email:


Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited is a private limited company registered in England and Wales under company number 10572065, authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No 637150.

Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited is a private limited company constituted and run in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006. The term “partner” has been used to denote individual senior solicitors employed by Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited.