William Stadler v. Currys Group Limited

Linet Christina ThomasCase Summary

Claim for compensation for selling the claimant's old smart TV to a third party without factory reset or data erasure

William Stadler v. Currys Group Limited
[2022] EWHC 160 (QB)
In the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Media and Communications List
Case QB-2021-002102
Before Judge Lewis
Decided on January 31, 2022

Relevancy of the Case: Claim for compensation for selling the claimant’s old smart TV to a third party without factory reset or data erasure

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The UK General Data Protection Regulation 2020 (Article 82, 5(1))
  • The Data Protection Act 2018 (Section 168, 169)
  • The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (Rule 3.4, 24.2)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • In September 2016, the claimant bought a smart TV from Currys, an electronic retailer. He did not log out of many apps installed on the TV when he returned it for repairs in September 2020 including Amazon Prime.
  • The defendant found out that repairing the TV would be ridiculously expensive. Therefore, it wrote the TV off and compensated the claimant. After that, the defendant sold the TV to a third party without a factory reset or data wipe.
  • The third-party used the claimant’s Amazon account to purchase a movie through the smart TV. As an act of goodwill, the defendant repaid the claimant for the movie purchase (£3.49) and gave him a shopping voucher worth £200.
  • The claimant sued the defendant for misusing personal information, breach of confidence, negligence, and violation of data protection rules. He sought damages for unlawful usage of his personal data and an injunction compelling the defendant to follow the obligations under UK-GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The claimant’s counsel submitted that the defendant has violated Article 82 of UK-GDPR and Sections 168 & 169 of the Data Protection Act 2018. This violation arose from the fact that it disposed of the device without first erasing any stored data. He also sought a declaration stating that the defendant had violated Article 5(1) of UK-GDPR by processing his personal data.
  • The defendant’s counsel submitted that the court should dismiss the claim under Rule 3.4(2)(a) and (b), or the court should grant a summary judgment under Rule 24.2. The counsel relied on the fact that the defendant was not a data controller. It did not know about the claimant’s personal data and reasonably assumed it was the claimant’s duty. The defendant only possessed the smart TV as a physical asset and never used the claimant’s accounts.

Opinion of the Bench

  • If the smart TV stored sensitive personal data, the defendant’s device handling was not a simple infraction. Despite the claim’s low amount and a single incident, the claim’s dismissal is not an option. The defendant should have known that the device included personal information.
  • If the defendant were a data controller, it would be subject to data protection duties. Further information is necessary to determine the defendant’s data protection obligations to the claimant.
  • The claimant did not follow Practice Direction 53B. He did not specify what information was confidential or whether the third party used or threatened to use it.
  • The defendant had an equitable obligation of confidentiality to not intentionally misuse information. The bench concluded that the defendant was not aware of the information.
  • Further, the defendant did not sell the smart TV to the third party using the claimant’s personal data. Since the defendant reimbursed the claimant for the purchased film, the claimant suffered no recoverable loss.

Final Decision

  • The facts and evidence do not support the charges of misappropriating private information or breach of confidentiality. However, the court rejected the defendant’s request to strike out the claim or grant summary judgment and referred it to the County Court. At the same time, the court also declined the claimant’s negligence claim.