Thousands of small businesses in the UK may face prosecution under new provisions about to come into force under the 1998 Data Protection Act, according to Experian, the business information group.
Its research shows that many businesses are unaware of their obligations in regard to processing and managing personal data and many lack appropriate systems for making data accessible to the individuals concerned, which is a condition of the act.
Experian has produced a free booklet, 'A simplified guide to the data protection act' designed to help businesses holding personal information on customers, suppliers, directors, shareholders and others. Mike Bradford, Experian's director of data protection and compliance, said: "Many smaller companies have little awareness that the new data protection law affects them. For smaller companies selling to the trade or public, personal information is also likely to cover sales records, credit payment accounts, mailing lists, customer orders and notes on customers.
“Under the new legislation anyone is entitled to apply to a business to obtain all the data held on them. There are penalties, including fines, for non-compliance regarding the content of personal files and the way they are compiled and accessed.”
The booklet is available to businesses in .pdf format on Experian's website. For a copy go to www.nationalbusinessdatabase.com and follow the path from the section headed Data Protection Advice Centre.