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Ten million customers could claim compensation for distress in Dixons Carphone data breach

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Following the Dixons data breach discovered in June this year, Dixons Carphone has begun contacting customers to warn them that their information has been accessed by hackers. And, while the company initially estimated that 5.9 million people could be at risk, that figure is now closer to 10 million. But with Dixons Carphone claiming that no customers have been the victim of fraud as a result of the hack, can you claim compensation for distress?

What has happened?

The breach, which took place in 2017, saw data leaked from servers containing customer records from Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores. Both payment card details and non-financial records were compromised.

While Dixons Carphone’s investigation has not uncovered any evidence of additional fraud, it has revealed that significantly more data was taken than first thought.

In an email to customers affected by the data breach, Dixons Carphone admitted that the scale of the non-payment leak reached around 10 million customers. Details stolen during the attack include names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and email addresses – all of which can be used by cybercriminals to commit further crimes.

Alex Baldock, chief executive of Dixons Carphone, has apologised for the breach and admitted that the company had ‘fallen short’ of its duty to protect customers. And, a spokesperson for Dixons Carphone said that: “While there is now evidence that some of this data may have left our systems, these records do not contain payment card or bank account details and we have no confirmed instances of customers falling victim to fraud as a result.”

However, by downplaying the severity of the hack, it is clear that Dixons Carphone does not understand the importance of keeping its customers’ personal data safe, and the sheer scale of damage and distress that can be caused by criminals gaining access to personally identifiable information (PII).

In fact, while there is no evidence of financial losses suffered by customers of Currys PC World and Dixons, this doesn’t mean that the impact on victims is any less significant.

Distress matters in data breach cases

Being the victim of a crime can have a considerable effect on you. Both mentally and physically. Everyone reacts differently, but for some people, the consequences can include a lack of sleep, feeling ill, unsettled or confused. Stress can also affect your friends, your family and your job. So, just because your financial details were not exposed or used, doesn’t mean the breach should be treated any less seriously.

According to Victim Support: “The effects of crime can also last for a long time, and it doesn’t depend on how ‘serious’ the crime was. Some people cope really well with the most horrific crimes while others can be very distressed by a more minor incident”.

Compensation for distress in data breach cases

If you have suffered damage or distress caused by an organisation breaching any part of the Data Protection Act, you have a right to claim compensation.

Crucially, the law recognises the potential damage that is caused by psychological suffering. So, you can make a compensation claim if you have struggled emotionally following a data breach, even if you have not experienced any financial loss.

A personal data breach is a 21st-century version of being burgled. So why shouldn’t you seek compensation for this failure to look after your information correctly?

What next in the Dixons Carphone data breach case?

The National Crime Agency has been investigating the Dixons Carphone data breach. It is working with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office (the UK’s data protection regulator).

Dixons Carphone has said that is “continuing to keep the relevant authorities updated.”

This is not the first time that the company has failed to protect its customers. Earlier this year, the Carphone Warehouse, which merged with Dixons, was fined a £400,000 following another cyber-attack.

The huge fine is one of the biggest ever handed out by the Information Commissioner’s Office. In that breach, the personal data of over three million customers and 1,000 employees was put at risk.

With a history of failures, the regulator will now be looking very carefully at this latest revelation.

Can you claim compensation for distress in the Dixons Carphone data breach?

Absolutely. Data breaches can have severe consequences for those affected, so, customers of Dixons Carphone should now be looking to claim compensation.

In this case, because of when the breach took place, any financial penalties paid by Dixons Carphone for failing to protect customer data adequately will be calculated under old data protection legislation. This means that the company will escape the threat of much more substantial fines now possible under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

But with a history of data negligence at the company, and a clear downplaying of the importance of this latest breach, something must be done to hold them to account.

If you have had an email from Dixon’s Carphone you could be entitled to several thousand pounds in compensation so it’s important to act now.


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