Breaches of UK data protection laws during 2016 incurred 35 fines, reaching a total of £3.2 million, which is almost double the 2015 total.

The findings come from consultancy firm PwC, which analysed the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) data protection enforcement actions over the past five years.

According to PwC, UK companies will face even higher fines if they fail to comply with the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The 2016 analysis found that that 23 enforcement notices – when organisations are required to take steps to ensure compliance after a data breach – were issued that year. That was a 155 per cent increase on the nine notices issued in 2015.

PwC also revealed that the UK was one of the most active regions for regulatory enforcement action in Europe last year. However, the firm added that while Europe has generally seen comparatively low volumes of regulatory enforcement actions, with low-level financial penalties, the US saw fines of approximately $250 million (£198 million) served.

According to PwC’s recent CEO Survey, 90 per cent of chief executives around the world believe breaches of data privacy and ethics will have a negative impact on stakeholder trust. This means that companies should prioritise the issue before the GDPR becomes law on May 25th 2018 across the EU.

Organisations that fail to comply with it will face penalties of up to four per cent of global turnover or €20m, depending on which is higher.

Stewart Room, PwC’s global cyber security and data protection legal services leader, said: “The ICO can currently issue fines up to £500,000, but with this set to increase to up to four per cent of global turnover under the new regulation, UK organisations must use the remaining time to prepare for GDPR compliance before May next year.”

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