Tallinna Halduskohus - 3-19-579

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Tallinna Halduskohus - 3-19-579
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Court: Tallinna Halduskohus (Estonia)
Jurisdiction: Estonia
Relevant Law: Article 77(1) GDPR
Article 58(3)(b) GDPR
Decided: 22.11.2019
National Case Number/Name: 3-19-579
European Case Law Identifier:
Appeal from:
Appeal to:
Original Language(s): Estonian
Original Source: Riigi Teataja (in Estonian)
Initial Contributor: n/a

The Tallinn Administrative Court ruled that the AKI (Estonian DPA) must act and issue a decision based on the intent of the submission it received, not merely on its formal characteristics. While the DPA has a certain margin of appreciation when assessing the complaint submitted, it should have considered and duly substantiated its refusal to not address the substantive issues which were raised by the complainant.

English Summary[edit | edit source]

Facts[edit | edit source]

The complainant made a submission to the Estonian DPA, which the DPA interpreted as a request for information and not as a complaint in terms of Article 77(1) GDPR. The complainant, however, expected the submission to be processed as a complaint within the meaning of Article 77(1) GDPR.

Dispute[edit | edit source]

The issue was mainly to know the margin of discretion within which the AKI assesses the complaints submitted and to what extend the administrative judge can review it.

Holding[edit | edit source]

The court found that the complainant's submission to the DPA clearly requested DPA assistance in preventing unlawful use of the complainant's personal data and interpreting it merely as a request for information was not justified. The court emphasized that the intent of a submission must be considered by the DPA and that a more convenient process cannot be selected merely because a complaint is vaguely formulated or the content briefly stated. The court further noted that a complainant does not need to outline which data protection measures they expect the DPA to undertake, nor do they even need to understand what are the measures available to the DPA - rather, the DPA must evaluate the substance of a complaint and decide for itself which measures are appropriate and accompany any refusal to process a complaint with the required justification.

The decision references Article 77(1) GDPR and Estonian Data Protection Act §28 p 1.

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English Machine Translation of the Decision[edit | edit source]

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

JUDGMENT On behalf of the Republic of Estonia Court Tallinn Administrative Court JudgeKristjan Siigur Notification of the judgment 22 November 2019, Tallinn Administrative Case Number 3-19-579 Administrative CaseE. G. complaint to the Data Protection Inspectorate on 17 January 2019 by letter No 2.1.-5/19/230 of 26 March 2019 and the decision contained in the complaint and the decision to return the cancellation of 16 January 2019 the applicant's appeal for reconsideration to oblige to nõuetes.MenetlusosalisedKaebaja: EG Respondent: The Data Protection Inspectorate 

1.The EG appeal upheld. Annul the decision of the Data Protection Inspectorate of 17 January 2019 to refuse to initiate supervision proceedings and issue precepts in the course of the supervision proceedings as well as the decision of 26 March 2019 to return the challenge No 2.1.-3/19/656 and order the Data Protection Inspectorate EG 16 January 2019 for reconsideration of the complaint.
2.Orders the parties to bear their own costs. 
3.Orders the Data Protection Inspectorate to pay the costs of legal aid in the amount of EUR 218.44 (two hundred and eighteen euros and 44 cents) in favor of the Republic of Estonia. Appeal procedure: Parties to the proceedings shall have the right to appeal against the judgment to the Tallinn Circuit Court no later than December 23, 2019 (§ 180 HKMS § 181 (1)). A counterclaim filed by another party to the appeal may be filed within 14 days of service on the party to the appeal or within the remainder of the appeal period if it is longer than 14 days (§ 184 HKMS). If the appellant wishes to hear the matter at the hearing, this must be stated in the appeal, otherwise he or she is presumed to agree to the written procedure (§ 182 (1) 9) of the Code of Civil Procedure). If a participant in the proceeding wishes to receive legal aid for lodging an appeal, he or she must submit an application to the Tallinn Circuit Court. Submission of a request for legal aid does not suspend the term of proceedings (§ 116 (5) HKMS) and in order to comply with the time limit for appeal, the applicant must also perform the procedural act for which he or she is seeking legal aid, in particular appeal (§ 116 (6)).

FACTS AND PREVIOUS PROCEDURE 1. On 16 January 2019, EG submitted a petition to the Data Protection Inspectorate (hereinafter also referred to as "AKI") requesting assistance because his personal data have been repeatedly unlawfully published. The statement included a series of web links to articles published in various news portals and media outlets. In its reply no. 2.1.-5/19/230 of 17 January 2019, the Data Protection Inspectorate responded to this statement as a request for clarification, stating that the Inspectorate does not generally intervene in private relations. Subsequently, on 12 February 2019, EG filed a complaint with the AKI, supplemented on 25 March 2019. By a decision No 2.1-1-3 / 19/656 of 26 March 2019, the AKI withdrew this challenge. 2. On 29 March 2019, EG filed a complaint with the Tallinn Administrative Court, stating the claim for annulment of AKI's decision of March 26, 2019 on the return of the challenge No. 2.1-3 / 19/656. By order dated 19 June 2019, the Administrative Court returned the complaint pursuant to § 121 (2) 1) of the Code of Administrative Court Procedure (hereinafter “HKMS”). Tallinn Circuit Court annulled the July 8, 2019 Regulation of Administrative aforementioned Regulation, considering that DPI would EG 16 January 2019 statement had to be regarded as the Data Protection Act (the "HY") § 28 section 1 and the protection of personal data of the General Regulation1( "GDPR") of 77 under paragraph 1.

THE APPLICANT'S CLAIM AND JUSTIFICATION 3. In its complaint to the Administrative Court, EG therefore seeks an injunction against the AKI, based on a complaint dated 16 January 2019, against media publications that have published the articles and programs listed in that complaint and an injunction obliging them to remove EG data could also be found by typing EG in the search engine.

THE DEFENDANT'S POSITION 4. The Data Protection Inspectorate disputes EG's complaint. First, the respondent submits that the complaint was wrongly admitted because the statement of 16 January 2019 was not a request but a request for clarification and thus the AKI's response of 17 January 2019 was not a discretionary decision justifying the failure to initiate a national supervision procedure. The respondent also considers that EG's complaint does not meet the requirements of the Act as it does not contain a clearly stated claim. In addition, the respondent explains that it appears from the file in the present case that the applicant was granted State legal aid, inter alia, for drawing up a civil action relating to the same articles to which he referred in his application to AKI dated 16 January 2019. The Respondent explains that if the complainant goes to court for the same web articles, the AKI has neither the right nor the ability to conduct a parallel proceeding in the same circumstances, in which case there is a risk that the Inspectorate will substantially intervene in the proceedings. In a supplementary position, the AKI, referring to the Tallinn Circuit Court ruling in Administrative Case 3-14-51724, states that the data subject is not entitled to require the AKI to carry out a supervisory procedure or to take specific supervisory measures. 

5. Having examined the parties' submissions and the materials in the file, I consider that EG's appeal should be upheld, AKI's reply dated 17 January 2019 annulling the decision of 26 March 2019 to remit and order AKI's EG appeal of 16 January 2019. for a new review. 
6. In the light of the positions taken in the Tallinn Circuit Court ruling of 8 July 2019 in this case, the defendant is wrong in its view that EG's statement of 16 January 2019 was a request for clarification. The Circuit Court made it clear that in a situation where the applicant's application had requested assistance in connection with the unlawful disclosure of personal data and referred to a number of articles related to the applicant's criminal case, AKI could not expect the individual to seek clarification of his rights and not request media coverage. to initiate supervision proceedings (second paragraph of paragraph 13 of the District Court's order of 8 July 2019). The Circuit Court explicitly stated that AKI's application of EG January 16, 2019 was to be treated as an appeal under § 28 § 1 / GDPR Article 77 § 1 and AKI's response of January 17, 2019 must be treated as an administrative act under § 43 § 2 within the meaning of p 1. The substance of the appeal submitted to the administrative court cannot be called into question by the circuit court and must be followed. Therefore, the arguments put forward in the defendant's written statement as to why the statement of 16 January 2019 should nevertheless be treated as a complaint are no longer relevant at this stage of the proceedings. 
7. In the present case, it is common ground between the parties that the AKI did not consider EG's application of 16 January 2019 as a complaint and did not even consider initiating the review procedure which was conferred on it by law. This is expressly confirmed by the Respondent in its statement to the Court of 28 August 2019, 6.5. The applicant's statement of 16 January 2019 was brief, but due to, inter alia, the principle of expediency referred to in § 5 (2) HMS, the AKI should have interpreted it in the light of its apparent purpose and even if it found that it was not clear any other measure within the competence of the AKI (such as the opening of a monitoring procedure), the applicant should have been given the opportunity to clarify his wishes.
8. The obligation to carry out the administrative procedure with purpose also prohibits the administrative body from automatically choosing, on the basis of a somewhat vague or tacit request, the course of action which is least onerous for the administrative body if it is clear from its application that some other take action and may be expected to take such action. In a situation where § 28 (1) of the APA expressly entitles the data subject to lodge a complaint with the AKI and the AKI is also competent for exercising public and administrative oversight, a request for assistance in respect of a breach of his rights such infringement would cease. The person does not have to specify in the complaint which specific supervisory actions he / she considers necessary. Nor does he need to know in detail what action the AKI is taking. Whether, and if so, what supervisory action is required in the circumstances raised in the complaint, it is for AKI to decide on its own merits and, if it considers that any action within its competence is neither necessary nor appropriate, it must be duly substantiated.
9. In the present case, the district court also stated in its order of 8 July 2019 that, even if EG's statement of 16 January 2019 could remain confusing, at the latest the document challenging the title was clear what the applicant wanted. However, AKI, in the light of the additional information received from the dispute, began to consider the necessity and expediency of initiating supervision, without unduly formally focusing on the question of whether it is possible to challenge the response to the request for clarification. Since EG's intention from the outset was to file a complaint under § 28 (1) of the APA and the letter of AKI dated 17 January 2019 must be considered (as the district court found) to be a denial of supervision, the appeal against that letter was backed by the argument that , clearly unfounded. This is an unfortunate example of how the administrative authority, through diligent search and substantial disregard of information obtained during the proceedings, has found a formal reason to avoid addressing the substantive issues raised by the person in the application and exercising his or her statutory competence. This is not the purpose of the administration. The administration must not be strictly guided solely by the title of the application or the wording of the request. The foregoing does not necessarily mean that the AKI should, in the circumstances, have instituted or initiated any monitoring procedure in respect of the media referred to in the applicant's statement, but should have considered and duly substantiated its refusal. As the Circuit Court ruled in its ruling of 8 July 2019, the IKS does not, on the basis of that argument alone, refuse to allow supervision to assert civil claims against persons who are allegedly infringing their rights. 
10. I find it appropriate to refer to the respondent's supplementary position in the District Court ruling in Case 3-14-51724. Indeed, in the order made in that case, the district court found that the data subject was not entitled to require the AKI to carry out a monitoring procedure or to take a specific supervision measure. This was the case, however, when the AKI had, in its discretion, decided that the supervision procedure should be terminated. The situation at issue in the present case differs fundamentally from the case-law cited in that, in the present case, EG made a statement which AKI was to consider as a complaint under section 28 of the APA, but did not exercise its discretion or consider initiating any follow-up procedure. Only if AKI had considered it would it be possible, in the light of those considerations, to determine in the context of judicial review whether that discretion was properly exercised. 
11. It follows from the foregoing that AKI must, in essence, rule on the EG application and consider whether, or by what means, it is necessary and expedient to take any action within the AKI's competence to protect EG's rights.
12. Pursuant to § 108 (1) of the HKMS, the costs of proceedings shall be borne by the party against whom the decision was made. The judgment is upheld to the detriment of the respondent. The applicant was exempt from payment of the state fee and has not applied for any other costs of the proceedings. There is therefore no question of ordering the defendant to pay the applicant's costs. By order dated 29 April 2019 in this case (Volume I, Vol. 94), the applicant was granted legal aid (translation assistance), within the framework of which the court arranged the appeal and the translation of the orders made in this case. According to the invoices of the translation service providers (Volume I, Vol. 97, Vol. 106, Vol. 183, Vol. 199 and Volume II, Vol. 27), the related costs amount to EUR 218.44. This is a legal aid expense which must be ordered by the respondent in favor of the Republic of Estonia under § 109 (3) of the Code of Civil Procedure. / signed with digital signature / Kristjan Siigur judge