Smeaton v Equifax plc  EWHC 2322 (QB);  BPIR 888
(Queen's Bench Division, His Honour Judge Thornton QC (sitting at a judge of the High Court), 11 May 2012)
S sought damages under the Data Protection Act 1998 for breach of the data protection principles and/or negligence at common law, on the basis that between 12 March 2001 and 17 July 2006, Equifax included in his credit file that he was subject to a bankruptcy order made by Aylesbury County Court on 1 March 2001 which was inaccurate in two respects: (1) in the period between 12 March 2001 and 22 May 2002, the bankruptcy order was subject to a stay pending appeal; and (2) between 22 May 2002 and 17 July 2006 it was inaccurate because the bankruptcy order had been rescinded on 22 May 2002. S alleged loss and damage derived from two applications he made for finance for his company which were refused. The judge directed the hearing of the following issues: (1) did Equifax breach any duty to S under the Data Protection Act 1998; (2) did Equifax owe S a duty of care at common law and if so what was its content; and (3) if there was a breach did it cause S to be unable to obtain funding on behalf of Ability in mid-2006 or subsequently. HHJ Thornton QC (sitting as a judge of the High Court) determined the issues in favour of S. Equifax, by deciding to operate as a credit reference agency and provide credit checks and references to its customers, had assumed a responsibility to consumers whose personal data it held to act with reasonable skill and care which common law duty was co-extensive with its statutory duty, and on the facts had failed to exercise reasonable skill and care, causing loss to S.
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