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Rb. Limburg - AWB 20/2151, AWB 20/2152, AWB 20/2153, AWB 20/3315 en AWB 21/890 t/m AWB 897

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Rb. Limburg - AWB 20/2151, AWB 20/2152, AWB 20/2153, AWB 20/3315 and AWB 21/890 t/m AWB 897
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Court: Rb. Limburg (Netherlands)
Jurisdiction: Netherlands
Relevant Law: Article 15 GDPR
[ Algemene wet bestuursrecht (Awb)]
[ Wet dwangsom]
Decided: 02.04.2021
Published: 22.04.2021
Parties: Municipal executives of Roerdalen, Valkenburg aan de Geul, Vaals and Brunssum
National Case Number/Name: AWB 20/2151, AWB 20/2152, AWB 20/2153, AWB 20/3315 and AWB 21/890 t/m AWB 897
European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:NL:RBLIM:2021:2946
Appeal from:
Appeal to: Unknown
Original Language(s): Dutch
Original Source: de Rechtspraak (in Dutch)
Initial Contributor: n/a

The District Court of Limburg ruled that a data subject had abused his GDPR rights by submitting access requests with the objective of collecting penalty payments from controllers for delayed responses.

English Summary

Facts

The claimant submitted data subject access requests to the municipal executives of Roerdalen, Valkenburg aan de Geul, Vaals and Brunssum in 2020. The municipal executives responded within one month asking the claimant to identify himself and informing him that his requests cannot be processed until this is done. The claimant sent requests to expedite the decision on his requests taking the view that decisions on his requests were not taken in a timely manner. In their responses, the municipalities have referred to their earlier letters and asked the claimant once again to identify himself. The claimant filed appeals regarding the failure to make timely decisions on his GDPR access request.

Dispute

Has the claimant abused his rights? Should his requests be rejected by the municipalities?

Holding

The Court considered that the claimant had not used his access request to exercise his rights in line with the GDPR, but rather to initiate proceedings against the municipalities in question and collect penalty payments for the delayed decisions. The claimant failed to mention the GDPR in his access request, which had caused ambiguity and delay. Furthermore, he did not identify himself and failed to respond to the several identification requests sent by the municipalities, although he was aware that this would prevent the municipalities from deciding on his request. When sending his notices of expiration, the claimant was aware that his request could not have been decided upon. Moreover, these notices were worded in such a way that they could have and have indeed caused further confusion. The claimant showed bad faith and has therefore abused his power. The appeals for the failure to make a timely decision are declared inadmissible on account of abuse of rights.

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English Machine Translation of the Decision

The decision below is a machine translation of the Dutch original. Please refer to the Dutch original for more details.


                                
                            
        



    Authority
    Court of Limburg
    Date of judgment
    02-04-2021

    Date of publication
    
22-04-2021

    Case number
    
AWB 20/2151, AWB 20/2152, AWB 20/2153, AWB 20/3315 and AWB 21/890 to AWB 897

    
    Jurisdictions
    
Administrative law
    
    Special characteristics
    
First instance - single
    
    Content indication
    
The plaintiff has lodged appeals against not making timely decisions on his GDPR access requests. The court is of the opinion that there has been an abuse of law, because it has become apparent that the plaintiff has not submitted his access requests with the aim of finding out whether personal data of him is being processed and, in the event that such is the case, access to the personal data belonging to him. processed, but apparently for no other purpose than initiating proceedings in order to be able to collect periodic penalty payments. The court declared these appeals and the legal appeals against the decisions to withhold or reject the access requests inadmissible.

    Locations
    
Rechtspraak.nl
    
        
        
            Enriched pronunciation
        





    
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            Statement
        
        
  
    COURT of limburg
    
    
      Seat in Maastricht
     
    
    
      Administrative law
     
    
    
      case numbers: AWB 20/2151, AWB 20/2152, AWB 20/2153, AWB 20/3315 and AWB 21/890 to AWB 897
     
    
    Judgment of the single Judge of 2 April 2021 in the cases between
    
    
      [plaintiff], plaintiff
    
    
      and
     
    
    1. the mayor, the mayor and aldermen and the municipal council of the municipality of Roerdalen;
    2. the mayor, the mayor and aldermen and the municipal council of the municipality of Valkenburg aan de Geul;
    3.the mayor, the mayor and aldermen and the municipal council of the municipality of Vaals respectively
    4. the mayor, the mayor and aldermen and the municipal council of the municipality of Brunssum, defendants.
    
    
  
  
    Process course
    
    
      Plaintiff has lodged appeals against failure to take a timely decision.
     
    
    
      Statements of defense have been submitted on the part of the municipalities of Valkenburg aan de Geul and Vaals.
     
    
    
      The hearing took place on February 11, 2021. The cases were handled jointly. Plaintiff participated in the hearing via a telephone (video) connection. The agents of defendants J. Stoffels (Roerdalen), R. Timmers (Valkenburg aan de Geul), M. Orasanin (Vaals) and Mr. A.A.C.M. Gidding-Baade and C.E.A. Bemelmans-Palmen (Brunssum) were present in the courtroom.
     
    
    
  
  
    Considerations
    
    
      
        preface
      
     
    
    1. The plaintiff has sent letters dated to the municipalities of the defendants
    April 29, 2020 and August 18, 2020 respectively. The plaintiff has asked in his letters whether his personal data are processed and, if this is the case, to inspect these personal data (by providing a copy of this data) and other information (the access requests).
    
    2. On the part of the municipalities, the plaintiff has been informed in writing within one month of receipt of the access requests that the requests can only be processed if the plaintiff identifies himself.
    
    3. Subsequently, the plaintiff wrote to the municipalities of the defendants by letters of 13 June 2020 and 26 September 2020, respectively, that he requests that a decision be taken on his letters of 29 April 2020 and 18 August 2020 respectively. The plaintiff further takes the position in the letters that a decision has not been taken on time and requests to proceed expeditiously.
    
    4. On the part of the municipalities, as a result of these letters, the plaintiff was referred in writing to the earlier letters in which he was informed that he must identify himself before his application can be processed, or he has been granted a period in which to comply. legitimize.
    
    
      
        Not deciding the appeals in a timely manner
      
     
    
    5. Subsequently, the plaintiff did not submit the present appeals in a timely manner. The plaintiff states in the appeals that the decision periods have not been suspended because no periods have been set for this and that the letters asking him to identify himself do not constitute decisions to withdraw from the proceedings. He also stated that he had sent the municipalities notice of default, that they had not made a decision in time, that he had forfeited a penalty and that he was authorized to submit the appeals. In doing so, he refers to the General Data Protection Regulation (AVG), the General Administrative Law Act (Awb), the Penalty Payments Act and case law.
    
    6. In response to the appeal against the late decision on the decision addressed to its municipality, the Municipal Executive of the municipality of Roerdalen has stated that it has interpreted the request as a request on the basis of the Personal Records Database Act, that the request, however, is a request under the GDPR and a decision will be taken on the request soon. On the part of the municipalities of Valkenburg aan de Geul and Vaals, it has been disputed (among other things) that the plaintiff's letters of 13 June 2020 are notices of default and indicate that there is an abuse of law.
    
    7. By decisions of October 20, 2020, November 9, 2020 and January 26, 2021, the councils of mayor and aldermen of the municipality of Roerdalen, Vaals and Brunssum have decided not to process the request for access further, because the plaintiff has not submitted any information to verify his identity. or rejected the request for access. Plaintiff has been given time limits for response prior to these decisions. Plaintiff has allowed these periods to expire unused.
    
    
      
        Failure to timely decide the assessment of the appeals
      
     
    
    
      
        Who are the controllers / defendants?
      
     
    
    8. During the preparation of the present appeals, the court has found that the plaintiff's requests by the municipalities have, whether or not immediately, been regarded as requests for access as referred to in Article 15 of the GDPR. Because the access requests are addressed to the municipalities of the defendants and different administrative bodies within a municipality are responsible for the processing of personal data, the court sent a letter to the administrative bodies of the municipalities of the defendants before the hearing requesting, in short, that all controllers who must take a decision on the requests, be represented at the hearing.
    
    9. The defendants referred to in the preamble to the judgment were represented at the hearing. It has been neither asserted nor shown that the requests for access should be interpreted in a broader sense than requests to the mayor, the mayor and aldermen and the municipal council of the municipalities addressed. The court therefore assumes that the plaintiff intended to direct the requests for access to the defendants and that the plaintiff intended by the present appeals to lodge appeals against the late taking of decisions by the defendants.
    
    
      
        Is the plaintiff rightly temporarily exempt from payment of court fees?
      
     
    
    10. If the levying of the statutory court fee makes it impossible or extremely difficult for the litigant to make use of an administrative procedure, it is assumed that the person concerned is not in default with regard to the failure to pay the court fee, as referred to in Article 8:41, sixth paragraph, of the Awb. This was the case during the period in which the court fee had to be paid if the litigant demonstrated that he had a net income that was less than 90 percent of the (maximum) social assistance standard applicable to a single person and did not have assets.
    
    11. The plaintiff has submitted documents showing that during the aforementioned period he worked through an employment agency, that he had no income above the aforementioned standard and that he had assets of € 82.46. At the hearing, the plaintiff stated that he had no other income during the said period and that he had no other bank account than the one on which his assets are located. On the basis of this information, the plaintiff has rightly been provisionally exempted from payment of court fees. His claims of inability to pay are therefore successful. The plaintiff therefore does not have to pay a court fee for the handling of the present appeals.
    
    
      
        Is there an abuse of rights?
      
     
    
    12. It has been found that the plaintiff intended with his access requests to submit AVG access requests. However, the Plaintiff did not mention the GDPR in his request for access, while this would have been obvious, given his intention and knowledge of the GDPR. Failure to mention the GDPR in his access requests makes the requests susceptible to different interpretations, which has also been shown and can therefore lead to confusion and / or delay, which has happened and was not necessary under the circumstances. The fact that the plaintiff finds his access requests without mentioning the GDPR sufficiently clear does not affect this.
    
    
      12.1
      It has also been found that the plaintiff did not provide any legitimacy to the letters he received from the municipalities as a result of his requests for inspection, stating that the plaintiff had to identify himself before his request could be processed. these letters responded. It has been established that the plaintiff received these letters and chose not to identify himself or to respond. Pursuant to Article 12, sixth paragraph, of the GDPR, the claimant could be required to identify himself. In view of what the plaintiff has requested with his access requests, he should have understood that it is crucial for substantive decisions on his access requests to determine whether the plaintiff is the person with respect to whom the access requests are made. Plaintiff also knew, because this is apparent from the aforementioned letters, that he would not receive substantive decisions if he did not identify himself, but nevertheless consciously chose not to identify himself or to respond.
      
    
    
      12.2
      While plaintiff therefore knew that without identification no substantive decision would be taken on his access requests, he should have understood that without identification no substantive decision could be taken on his access requests and he made the choice not to identify himself and not respond to the identification requests, plaintiff the municipalities of the defendants have been sent letters of 13 June and 26 September 2020, intended as notice of default for not making timely decisions on his access requests. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff could not have intended to obtain substantive decisions on his access requests by sending these letters. Moreover, these letters have been drafted in such a way that a discussion could arise and have arisen, while this was not necessary in view of the plaintiff's knowledge of the matter, as is apparent from his position on these letters and the case law that he cited in that regard. and thus further confusion and / or delay could arise and has arisen.
      
    
    
      12.3
      The plaintiff has also not legitimized himself in response to the letters from the municipalities in which the plaintiff was again asked for identification or given a period to identify himself, nor has he responded to these letters. A number of letters show the concerns that have arisen on the part of the municipalities about whether the plaintiff has understood or received the earlier letters about identification. It also appears once again that identification is necessary in order to be able to take a substantive decision, so that the plaintiff knew once again that without identification he would not receive a substantive decision on his access requests. Nevertheless, the plaintiff consciously made the choice this time not to identify himself or to respond to the letters.
      
    
    
      12.4
      While the plaintiff had thus been made clear that he would not receive a substantive decision on his access requests if he did not identify himself and the plaintiff should have understood that without proof of identity a substantive decision could not be taken on his access requests, the plaintiff did not submit the present appeals in a timely manner with the aim to order defendants to make decisions on their access requests and to determine forfeited penalties. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff could not have intended with these appeals to induce the defendants to take substantive decisions on his access requests.
      
    
    
      12.5
      The court is therefore of the opinion that the plaintiff has not used the power to submit a GDPR access request for the purpose for which the power was granted, i.e. to give a data subject the opportunity to ask a controller whether he is processing personal data of him. and if that is the case to gain access to this personal data, but apparently for no other purpose, given his way of acting, than to initiate procedures in order to be able to collect penalties if a decision is not made in time.
      
      
        12.5.1
        With its positions of principle on the failure to respond to the requests for identification, because the suspensions of the decision periods are not legally valid due to the lack of a deadline, or because an expired decision period cannot be suspended and an administrative body must be aware of this, the plaintiff has not been able to convince the court that he has submitted his access requests with the aim of finding out whether his personal data are being processed and, if that is the case, to have access to the personal data that are being processed, simply because these views are not to rhyme with that goal. A response to the requests for identification had not harmed or harmed the plaintiff in any way and identification had led to the plaintiff having received substantive decisions on his requests for access as quickly as possible, as is apparent from the letters from the municipalities and the proceedings at the hearing.
        
        13. Using the power to submit a GDPR access request in this way is evidence of bad faith. Plaintiff has therefore misused this power. This also applies to the use of the power not to bring the present appeals to the court in a timely manner because these appeals cannot be viewed in isolation from the purpose with which the plaintiff used the power to submit a request for access. The appeals against not taking a decision on time are therefore declared inadmissible on the grounds of abuse of law.
        
        
          
            The assessment of the appeals that have arisen by operation of law
          
         
        
        14. The councils of mayor and aldermen of the municipality of Roerdalen, Vaals and Brunssum have submitted the access requests by decisions of 20 October 2020 respectively.
         November 9, 2020 and January 26, 2021 withheld or rejected. Under Article 6:20 of the Awb, appeals have been made by operation of law against these decisions. Because these appeals cannot be seen in isolation from the abuse of law described above, these appeals are also declared inadmissible because of abuse of law.
        
        
          
            Conclusion
          
         
        
        15. The appeals are not decided in time and the appeals that have arisen by operation of law are inadmissible. The court therefore no longer has time to assess what the plaintiff has put forward and asked for in his appeals.
      
    
  
  
    Decision
    
    
      The court declares that the appeals are not decided in time and the appeals that are legally challenged against the decisions of the councils of mayor and aldermen of the municipalities of Roerdalen, Vaals and Brunssum on October 20, 2020, November 9, 2020 and respectively.
      January 26, 2021 arose inadmissible.
     
    
    
      This statement was made by mr. N.J.J. Derks-Voncken, judge, in the presence of
      mr. A.W.C.M. Frings, Registrar. The decision was issued in public on
      April 2, 2021.
     
    
    
      The registrar is not able to co-sign the decision.
     
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
      judge
     
    
    
    
    
    
      Transcript sent to parties on: April 2, 2021
     
    
    
  
  
    Remedy
    
    
      An appeal can be lodged against this decision with the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State within six weeks of the date on which it was sent. If an appeal has been lodged, a preliminary injunction may be lodged with the preliminary relief judge of the court of appeal.