Austrian Post ordered to pay damages after data scandal

Data protection scandal in Austria

Data protection scandal: law not observed

Data scandal AustriaAustrian Post has been sentenced to pay damages due to unauthorized data processing. Following the data scandal uncovered by an Austrian investigative journal in January 2019, the first judgment has now been issued against Austrian Post.

The Feldkirch Regional Court ordered Austrian Post to pay the plaintiff 800 euros in damages. The plaintiff, a lawyer from Voralberg, had sued the company for EUR 2,500 in damages after it became known that Swiss Post had stored data on the party affinity of around 2.2 million Austrians ( ). The plaintiff was also affected by this. The data records were sold to interested parties so that they could send out corresponding advertising. The criticism of this procedure concerned the legality of processing special categories of personal data, including data on political opinion. In order to be allowed to process this data, the consent of the data subject or another legal basis is required. Swiss Post was unable to provide any such legal basis and denied that it was processing data unlawfully.

The regional court has now established that data on party affinity is indeed special category personal data. The fact that Swiss Post stored this data without the consent of the data subject is unlawful and justifies the damages. As the data of the data subject was not sold, the court considered damages of 800 euros to be appropriate.

This ruling is groundbreaking for two reasons.

Firstly, non-material damages were awarded for the first time. The damages are intended to compensate for the inconvenience suffered by the data subject as a result of the unlawful data storage.

In addition, the consequences for Swiss Post can be devastating. Theoretically, every single one of the 2.2 million people affected has a comparable claim for damages, which could be significantly higher, depending on what happened to the data.

The judgment is not yet final, as both parties have lodged appeals. However, this in no way detracts from the lessons that should be learned from this.

from C. Dorner


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