CJEU - C-486/12 - X

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CJEU - C-486/12 X: Access may be subject to payment of reasonable fees
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Court: CJEU
Jurisdiction: European Union
Relevant Law:
Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46
Decided: 12.12.2013
Parties:
Case Number/Name: C-486/12 X: Access may be subject to payment of reasonable fees
European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EU:C:2013:836
Reference from: GHSHE (Netherlands)
Language: 24 EU Languages
Original Source: Judgement
Initial Contributor: n/a

Preliminary questions were submitted to the ECJ about the amount of charges municipalities are allowed to levy when a data subject exercises its right of access. The ECJ answered that levying fees is allowed, as long as they are not excessive.

English Summary[edit | edit source]

Facts[edit | edit source]

In proceedings contesting a decision imposing a fine for a traffic offence, the plaintiff sought to show that she had never received any order of the fine or any subsequent demands for payment that had been issued by the public prosecutor, as they had been sent to the wrong address. To prove this, she requested her municipality to disclose her various addresses in 2008 and 2009. In response, the municipality provided a certified transcript of the personal data in question and, in exchange, demanded payment of a fee of EUR 12,80. The plaintiff brought an action contesting that request for payment.

The referring court was of the view that Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46 can be construed in two ways: - the communication of personal data must take place without excessive delay or excessive expense; or - the communication of personal data must take place without excessive delay and without expense. In the former case, it is permissible to levy a fee, so long as it is not excessive. In the latter case, levying a fee is prohibited.

The referring court therefore decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling: - Whether Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46 is to be interpreted as precluding the levying of fees in respect of the communication of personal data by a public authority; - Whether the levying of the present fee is excessive.

If it was found that Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that personal data is to be communicated free of charge, the referring court was then uncertain as to: - Whether the provision of access to data against payment pursuant to a provision under national law constitute compliance with the obligation to communicate data undergoing processing.

Holding[edit | edit source]

Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46 does not require Member States to levy fees when the right of access to personal data is exercised, nor does it prohibit the levying of such fees as long as they are not excessive.

Access must be without constraint, without excessive delay and without excessive expense. The fees should be fixed at a level which constitutes a fair balance between, on the one hand, the interest of the data subject in protecting his privacy (in particular his right to have the data communicated to him in an intelligible form), and on the other, the burden which the obligation to communicate such data represents for the controller. The fees may not be fixed at a level likely to constitute an obstacle to the exercise of the right of access, and it should not exceed the cost of communicating such data. Authorities can also choose to charge less than the actual costs in order to safeguard one’s right of access.

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