The Information Commissioner's Office has confirmed that both the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation have paid reduced penalty payments, after reaching “swift settlements” with the data protection watchdog.
A spokeswoman from the ICO told Civil Society News that both organisations had agreed to pay their fines within a 28-day appeal period. As a result both the RSPCA and BHF had received 20 per cent reductions in terms of the penalty amount.
This is standard ICO procedure for all monetary fines and was not a charity specific measure.
The RSPCA and BHF were handed fines of £20,000 and £18,000 by the ICO respectively on 9 December for numerous breaches in relation to the Data Protection Act around wealth screening and the swapping and sharing of donor data.
'An appeal would be costly'
In a statement on the BHF website dated 21 December 2016, Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the charity, said that the BHF board of trustees had decided not to appeal against the ICO’s penalty as even a successful appeal would cost more than the original fine.
“Our trustees have taken the decision to pay the penalty imposed on us by the ICO in order to close the matter and on the grounds that the unrecoverable costs of even a successful appeal would amount to more than paying the penalty.
“Swift settlement of the case also means the penalty is reduced considerably to £14,400 and this approach avoids what would no doubt be a costly and time intensive appeal process, distracting the BHF from our core work and key goals.”
In the statement Gillespie reiterated his disappointment in the ICO findings, and said that a “small group” of the charity’s supporters had agree to pay the reduced fine.
“A small group of supporters have approached us offering to pay the penalty as they also believe it is unfair and unmerited. They are keen, as are we, that no general donations are used to pay the penalty but instead continue to be applied in the fight against heart disease. We are extremely grateful for their and your continued support.”
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said that, while the organisation disagreed with the ICO's findings, the organisation also decided against appealing the fine due to the costs associated with the process.
"There are many aspects of the ICO’s decision which we disagree with, including the imposition of a monetary penalty. However, for a number of reasons, we have decided not to pursue an appeal. For example, we were concerned at the likely costs of an appeal, bearing in mind that (even if successful) the unrecoverable element of these costs might well be greater than the penalty itself.
"We could not ignore the fact that the penalty would be reduced by 20 per cent if paid early (this discount would be forfeited if an appeal was brought). We paid the penalty from income investments rather than from direct donations. We also wanted to move on from the decision and not be distracted from our vital animal welfare work by an expensive and time consuming appeal process."
All fines paid to the ICO go into the Consolidated Fund which is the Government's general bank account at the Bank of England.