148. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a reply will issue to a query from a person (details supplied) regarding the proposed exemption from fines for public bodies for breaches of the proposed Data Protection Bill 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6482/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The position is that Article 57 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) confers a range of sanctioning powers on the data protection authorities of the Member States. These include possible warnings and reprimands; enforcement orders to bring processing operations into compliance with the GDPR or to facilitate exercise of data subject rights; and prohibition orders to restrict data processing operations on a temporary or permanent basis. These sanctions will apply equally to data controllers and data processors in the public and private sectors.
Article 83 of the GDPR goes on to make provision for the possible imposition of administrative fines on data controllers and data processors for infringements of its provisions, but it states that is a matter for the Member States to decide whether and, if so, to what extent, administrative fines may be imposed on public sector bodies.
While the imposition of such fines on Government Departments, public authorities and public bodies could have a deterrent effect, it would also reduce funds available to such bodies for the provision of important services to the public. Any deficit arising from the payment of fines would be likely to lead to a demand for replacement funding by means of a supplementary budget. This could result in a potentially wasteful circular flow of funds. On the other hand, non-application of administrative fines could create competition distortions in areas in which public and private bodies operate in the same market (e.g. public and private hospitals; public and private transport providers).
In order to ensure fair and equitable trading conditions in such cases, the Data Protection Bill 2018 proposes that administrative fines may be imposed on public bodies when acting as “undertakings”, i.e. when providing goods or services for gain in competition with private bodies. This will avoid competitive distortions that would otherwise arise from non-application of such fines to public bodies that act as undertakings.