The Information Commissioner’s Office has lost its landmark legal action against insurance firm Hiscox – brought over the company’s alleged breach of data protection law over a policy holder’s claim – after case was abandoned when the defendant became unwell.
The insurer had been charged with three offences under the 1998 Data Protection Act, after it allegedly demanded that one of its policyholders, Irfan Hussain, provide information about any criminal convictions before the company would pay out on a claim over the loss of his £30,000 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch. Hiscox had denied the allegations.
But the trial at Southwark Crown Court was halted and the jury discharged after Hussain, who was a key witness, fell ill. The ICO told the court late last week that it would not seek a retrial and offered no evidence in the case.
Judge Deborah Taylor formally entered not guilty verdicts on all three counts into the court records on Friday.
Hiscox group claims director Jeremy Pinchin told the Financial Times: “We have been found not guilty of all charges brought by the ICO. This case was always about our attempt to verify the validity of a single household insurance claim. We co-operated fully with the ICO throughout the investigation and we are very proud of our claims paying history.”
In a statement, the ICO said it was “disappointed” by the outcome but insisted it was an appropriate prosecution to bring. “However, we accept that the health and personal welfare of the individual concerned must come first,” it added.
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