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Supermac's CEO Pat McDonagh

Supermac's CEO Pat McDonagh

Supermac's CEO Pat McDonagh

Supermac's could face a fine of up to €20m from the Data Protection Commission for refusing to hand over CCTV to people who have lodged personal injury claims against the company.

The fast-food giant has been instructed to give CCTV in respect of matters which are part of ongoing litigation.

Customers have lodged complaints to the DPC through their solicitors over Supermac’s refusing their requests under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“We will not, unless directed by the courts, hand over CCTV evidence which could perhaps enable a potential claimant to mend their hand in advance of any matter coming before the court,” Supermac’s CEO Pat McDonagh told the Irish Independent.

“We have no issue whatsoever in supplying the DPC with CCTV footage regarding any incident as long as it does not affect the integrity of our defence. It may form a strong part of our defence against the alleged claims and any CCTV which we may hold may record details of an incident and cannot be regarded as personal. It is retained for no other purpose other than to protect the company in the context of litigation”.

In November last year, the High Court ruled that Supermac’s did not have to provide footage to a plaintiff suing after falling off a chair which broke at its outlet in Eyre Square, Co Galway.

The CCTV was sought as part of the discovery process, and Justice Anthony Barr said: “In this case I am satisfied that the discovery sought only goes to the issue of credit in relation to the plaintiff’s account of the accident as set out in the pleadings to date.

“On the basis of the authorities that have been opened to me, I am satisfied that it is inappropriate for a party to obtain discovery of documents or other material on such a basis.”

The matter came before the High Court after the plaintiff appealed the decision of Circuit Court judge Raymond Groarke, who said no party should gain advantage through discovery.

The DPC said that while it is familiar with Mr Justice Barr’s judgment, it is important to highlight distinctions between access requests and discovery in civil litigation.

“The right of access is not only contained in the GDPR, it is also an important fundamental right contained in EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

“It is simply not sustainable given the importance of the right of access, that personal data would not be released in the interest of defending a possible claim against it.”

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When asked what penalties a business could face for refusing to hand over CCTV under a GDPR request, a DPC spokesperson said: “Non-compliance with an order by the supervisory authority shall be subject to administrative fines up to €20,000,000, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4pc of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.”

Not all infringements of the GDPR will lead to such serious fines. Mr McDonagh described the situation as “worrying”.

“These are challenging times to be in business. The fact that we are having to fight it through the courts and that we are armed with a judgment from the courts shows that the State needs to intervene here to protect businesses.”

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