GDPR penalties and fines
The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) sets a maximum fine of €20 million (about £18 million) or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is greater – for infringements.
However, not all GDPR infringements lead to data protection fines. Supervisory authorities such as the UK’s ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) can take a range of other actions, including:
- Issuing warnings and reprimands;
- Imposing a temporary or permanent ban on data processing;
- Ordering the rectification, restriction or erasure of data; and
- Suspending data transfers to third countries.
For comprehensive guidance and practical advice on complying with the GDPR, read our bestselling EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – An Implementation and Compliance Guide, Third edition.
What is the maximum GDPR fine?
Who gets the money from GDPR fines?
How are GDPR fines applied?
How to avoid GDPR fines and penalties
GDPR fines so far
Useful external links
Free GDPR resources
Achieve GDPR compliance with our all-in-one solutions
The GDPR defines a ‘personal data breach’ as “a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data”.
However, data breaches are not the only things that lead to regulatory action. There are two levels of GDPR fines:
Lower level of GDPR penalties
Fines of up to €10 million or 2% of annual global turnover can be issued for infringements of articles:
- 8 (conditions for children’s consent);
- 11 (processing that doesn’t require identification);
- 25 – 39 (general obligations of processors and controllers);
- 42 (certification); and
- 43 (certification bodies).
Higher level of GDPR penalties
Fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover can be issued for infringements of articles:
All fines collected by the ICO go to HM Treasury’s Consolidated Fund to be spent on health and social care, education, policing and justice, and the like.
The money collected from the annual data protection fee that data controllers must pay is used to fund the ICO’s work.
GDPR fines are discretionary rather than mandatory. They must be imposed on a case-by-case basis and should be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.
Any fine you might receive will depend on:
- The type of infringement, how severe it was and how long it lasted;
- Whether it was deliberate or accidental;
- The action you took to reduce the damage to individuals (data subjects);
- Your security measures;
- Whether this is your first GDPR infringement;
- How cooperative you were when fixing the issue;
- The types of personal data involved;
- Whether you notified the supervisory authority yourself; and
- Whether you adhere to any approved codes of conduct or certification schemes.
How personal data is processed and secured is the very essence of the GDPR. This is reflected in the action that the European regulators have taken since the Regulation took effect.
The vast majority of GDPR fines have related to violations of articles 5, 6 and 32.
- Article 5 (data processing principles) states that personal data must be:
- Processed lawfully, fairly and transparently.
- Collected only for specific legitimate purposes.
- Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary.
- Accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
- Stored only as long as is necessary.
- Processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security.
- Article 6 (lawfulness of processing) states that personal data can only be processed:
- If the data subject has given their consent.
- To meet contractual obligations.
- To comply with legal obligations.
- To protect the data subject’s vital interests.
- For tasks in the public interest.
- For the legitimate interests of the organisation.
- Article 32 (security of processing) requires data controllers and processors to implement “appropriate technical and organisational measures” to secure the personal data they process.
IT Governance has everything you need to help ensure your GDPR compliance, including:
- Demonstrating that you have a lawful basis for processing;
- Following the six data processing principles; and
- Implementing appropriate technical and organisational measures to keep personal data protected.
In the first half of 2020, European supervisory authorities issued at least 114 administrative fines totalling over €50 million. (The total is approximate owing to currency fluctuations and the fact that not all supervisory authorities publish information about the action they have taken.)
The fines for January to June 2020 break down as follows:
Monthly total (€)
2020 cumulative total (€)
Ensuring your organisation is GDPR compliant will reduce your risk of incurring an administrative fine.
Free downloads: GDPR Fines Quarterly Reports
You can learn about the GDPR fines issued in our free quarterly reports.
- The number of GDPR fines issued per country, by month;
- The value of the fines issued, by month;
- The most common types of breach that resulted in fines;
- A breakdown of GDPR fines per country; and
- Information about the organisations that have been fined.
Whether you’ve just started your implementation project or are already on the way to compliance, our cost-effective solutions will help streamline your implementation project.
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Suffered a data breach? The clock is ticking
The GDPR requires you to notify the ICO without undue delay, and within 72 hours of discovering a data breach.
Act fast with our Data Breach Management Service to ensure you fulfil the Regulation’s breach notification requirements quickly and efficiently.
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Don’t get caught out: meet your compliance objectives today
As well as risking regulatory action for breaches, organisations face reputational damage and remediation costs. There is also the possibility of legal action from data subjects.
Don’t take the risk. Whether you need an outsourced DPO (data protection officer), help creating GDPR-compliant documentation, or staff awareness training, our range of products and services can help you meet your GDPR compliance objectives.