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Further delays to ICO proposed fines for BA and Marriott

Posted on 31 March 2020

The saga of the proposed fines by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on BA and Marriott Inc appears to be still running. In July 2019 the ICO proposed fines of £183m and £99m respectively to the two companies, and, although the law would normally have required a final decision on such fines to be made within six months (which would have been by early January 2020), the ICO announced at that time that an extension had been agreed with the parties.

Now, it appears that that further extensions have been agreed. News outlet Politico has noted (£) that IAG (BA's owner) annual financial Management Report says that the period for issuing the fine "has been extended through to May 18, 2020", and in a statement to the same reporter, Marriott have said “We mutually agreed with the ICO to an extension of the regulatory process until June 1, 2020".

The ICO has not elaborated other than to issue a statement on 30 March, saying "the regulatory process is ongoing in both BA and Marriott".

It is clear that both companies are making robust representations regarding the proposed fines. BA state in their report that "It is British Airways’ intention to vigorously defend itself in this matter, including using all available appeal routes should they be required", and Marriott's statement to Politico goes on to say that "in the 2019 second quarter, we recorded an accrual in the full amount of the Proposed ICO Fine for this loss contingency, and in the 2019 fourth quarter, we reduced the accrual to $65 million based on the ongoing proceeding.

An extra dimension to the story is, of course, the impact that COVID-19 is having on the travel sector, and in a previous piece we noted that it might fundamentally affect the likelihood of huge fines being served.

In November 2019 we said "it would perhaps not be enormously surprising to find out that the proposed fines for BA and Marriott don't materialise, or – at least – aren't of the size they were initially proposed to be". This prediction may well – it seems – have been accurate.

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