UK: DSARS: New Guidance Given By Information Commissioner's Office

Last Updated: 5 September 2019
Article by DAC Beachcroft LLP

Revised time limit guidance

Until publishing this revised guidance, the ICO's position had been that the month's timescale go comply with a DSAR begins on the day after the DSAR is received. However, the revised guidance makes it clear that this is no longer the case; data controllers are now expected to calculate the time limit from the day that the DSAR is received (regardless of whether this is a working day). For example, the deadline for a DSAR received on 2 September 2019 would be 2 October 2019 (provided a decision is not made to extend the time limit by a further two months).

The other rules for calculating DSAR compliance deadlines remain the same. As a recap, these are:

  • If there is no corresponding calendar date, the deadline is the last day of the relevant month (e.g. a DSAR received on 31 August would be due on 30 September, given that September only has 30 days); and
  • If the DSAR deadline falls on a weekend or a public holiday, you have until the next working day to respond (e.g. the deadline for a DSAR received on 14 August 2019 will be Monday 16 September 2019).

Clarity on 'manifestly unfounded or excessive' DSARs

The revised ICO guidance has helpfully provided some clarity as to what constitutes a 'manifestly unfounded or excessive' DSAR (which data controllers are entitled to refuse to comply with).

The guidance explains that a DSAR may be manifestly unfounded if:

  • the individual clearly has no intention to exercise their right of access. For example, if an individual makes a request, but then offers to withdraw it in return for some form of benefit; or
  • the request is malicious in intent and is being used to harass an organisation with no real purposes other than to cause disruption. For example: 
    •  the individual has explicitly stated, in the request itself or in other communications, that they intend to cause disruption;
    • the request makes unsubstantiated accusations against you or specific employees;
    • the individual is targeting a particular employee against whom they have some personal grudge; or
    • the individual systematically sends different requests to you as part of a campaign, e.g. once a week, with the intention of causing disruption.

The guidance makes it clear, however, that this should not be treated as a simple tick list exercise that automatically means a request is manifestly unfounded. Likewise, data controllers should not presume that a request is manifestly unfounded just because the individual has previously submitted requests which have been manifestly unfounded or excessive, or because the request includes aggressive or abusive language.

Data controllers are expected instead to consider a request in the context in which it is made, and are responsible for demonstrating that it is manifestly unfounded. There must be an obvious or clear quality to it being unfounded and data controllers are expected to consider the specific situation and whether the individual genuinely wants to exercise their rights. If this is the case, it is unlikely that the request will be manifestly unfounded.

The following example is provided in the guidance:

  • An individual believes that information held about them is inaccurate. They repeatedly request that it is corrected but you have previously investigated and told them you regard it as accurate.
  • The individual continues to make requests along with unsubstantiated claims against the data controller.
  • The most recent request is refused because it is manifestly unfounded and the individual is notified of this.

A request may be excessive if:

  • it repeats the substance of previous requests and a reasonable interval has not elapsed; or
  • it overlaps with other requests.

It depends on the particular circumstances whether a request is excessive. A DSAR will not necessarily be excessive just because the individual:

  • requests a large amount of information, even if this is burdensome. Instead, a data controller should consider asking the data subject for more information to help locate what they want to receive;
  • wants to receive a further copy of information they have requested previously. In this situation a data controller can charge a reasonable fee for the administrative costs of providing this information again and it is unlikely that this would be an excessive request;
  • made an overlapping request relating to a completely separate set of information; or
  • previously submitted requests which have been manifestly unfounded or excessive.

When deciding whether a reasonable interval has elapsed the following should be considered:

  • the nature of the data – this could include whether it is particularly sensitive;
  • the purposes of the processing – these could include whether the processing is likely to cause detriment (harm) to the requester if disclosed; and
  • how often the data is altered – if the information is unlikely to have changed between requests, there is no need to respond to the same request twice. However, if you have deleted information since the last request you should inform the individual of this.


We recommend employers amend their internal DSAR processes and update any employees who handle DSARs to avoid getting caught out by the new calculation of the time limit rule. For any DSARs already in the pipeline, we recommend that data controllers aim to comply with the shortened deadline if possible. However, as this amendment was made by the ICO without much fanfare, data controllers may be able to argue in the short term that they were not aware of the change. The guidance on manifestly unfounded or excessive is welcome, as it has been some time coming.

See the new guidance here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions