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Eastbourne Borough Council (17 018 557)

Category : Other Categories > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 23 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a possible breach of data protection by the Council. The Information Commissioner is better placed to consider the issue and Mr X can make a claim for damages through the courts.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains the Council disclosed his personal email address to a third party using his details to make false reports of noise nuisance. He also complains about the Council’s handling of his complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed the information provided by Mr X, comprising his emails to the Council and the Council’s responses. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. The Council wrote to Mr X to acknowledge a complaint of possible noise nuisance made in his name against his neighbour. Mr X emailed the Council explaining he had not reported any noise by his neighbour and had no cause to do so. In response the Council explained a report had been made online using his details and giving an email address to contact him on. The Council officer sent their reply to Mr X and copied in the email address given on the form.
  2. Mr X believes the Council’s actions amount to a breach of data protection regulations. He is concerned the person making false reports under his name now has his personal email address and may use this to commit identity fraud.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. The Information Commissioner is better placed to determine whether the Council has breached data protection regulations and it would therefore be reasonable for Mr X to put his complaint to her. Mr X can then make a claim for damages through the courts.
  4. Mr X also complains about the Council’s handling of his complaint but we will not investigate this issue in isolation. Is it peripheral to his main complaint about the Council’s breach of data protection and has not caused him significant injustice separable from that resulting from the alleged breach.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint concerns a possible breach of data protection which the Information Commissioner is better placed to investigate.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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