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The Data Watchdog Bites

Mary Doyle November 12th, 2012 Data Quality, Master Data Management

If you received a letter from a customer bearing a different address from the one you had on record, which the letter stated had not been changed for 15 years, would you:

Just change the record

Investigate how you got the wrong address

Do nothing?

What the Prudential Did

The Prudential appeared to opt for C when they got a letter like this. Six months passed before they took action and demerged the accounts of two customers with the same first name, surname and date of birth. By that time some seriously large sums of money had been moved into a retirement plan belonging to the wrong customer.

Penalty for Accounts Wrongly Merged for Three Years

It has all been sorted out now and the customers have been offered compensation. But those accounts were merged for over three years in total, even though the people concerned had been in touch saying something was wrong. The Prudential insists that the error was due to one of their financial advisers mistakenly giving them the wrong address, but they’ve still been severely ticked off by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The penalty that probably hurts most though is a fine of £50,000 for non-compliance with the Data Protection Act in not storing accurate data and keeping it up to date. As all previous financial penalties awarded under the Act have been for data loss rather than inaccuracy, this shows the data watchdog is starting to bite in a different direction.

Keeping Your Data Accurate

Two people with exactly the same name and birth date may seem like an unlikely scenario – it would certainly be rare, but it is clear to see by this case that it can happen.

It proves how important it is to have data governance and data cleansing solutions in place that ensure your rules about keeping clean data are adhered to. And if you can’t do it yourself, using experienced Data Quality Experts could be well worth the investment.