Data Storage Dispute Leads to Emergency High Court Injunction

Large companies frequently engage outside contractors to assist with storage of the vast quantities of data they produce. However, as a High Court case showed, a breakdown of such commercial relationships can give rise to urgent privacy and data protection issues.

A company, part of a multinational group, stored data – much of it personal material relating to employee expenses – with a contractor. After the services being provided by the contractor came to an end, there was a failure to agree terms on which it would continue to maintain the data. In correspondence, the contractor suggested that it would be deleted.

In those circumstances, the company successfully applied to a judge – by telephone on Christmas Eve – for an emergency injunction to prevent such deletion. The company subsequently sought an extension to that injunction and further orders requiring the contractor to preserve and deliver up the relevant data.

The contractor argued that it had already provided all the data to the company, and the Court accepted that it had raised a serious issue to be tried in that respect. On the limited evidence available, however, the Court was satisfied that the company was entitled to an interim injunction in broadly the terms it sought.

The Court directed that a mechanism should be built into the order by which the company and the contractor would be required to agree the division of the costs burden of delivering up the data. The company had made an open offer to pay £35,000 towards those costs, a sum which the Court indicated was too low. The contractor had put the costs of the exercise at up to £212,000.