The Court of Justice confirmed that there is no "threshold" for GDPR damages

04 May 2023
 (c) Katarina Dzurekova

The Court of Justice confirmed that there is no "threshold" for GDPR damages, contrary to national courts.

Today, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued the first judgment on emotional damages under the GDPR, confirming that the GDPR does not require a "threshold" for damages. The other demands by the Court are the typical requirements for any damages claim.

CJEU confirms "emotional damages". The CJEU has confirmed that users have a right to compensation when their personal data was illegally processed. As with any damages claim, the CJEU requires that there is a violation, damages and causation. While the CJEU notes that there is no claim without any actual damage, this does not come as a surprise.

Max Schrems: "We welcome the clarifications by the CJEU. A whole industry tried to reinterpret the GDPR, in order to avoid having to pay damages to users whose rights they violated. This seems to be rejected. We are very happy about the result."

German legal community tried to limit GDPR enforcement further. Especially in Germany, many members of the legal community have tried to implement a "threshold" for GDPR claims, which existed in German law before the GDPR was introduced. The GDPR does not foresee such a threshold, nevertheless many national courts have rejected claims based on the concept of a "threshold" for emotional damages. The Austrian Supreme Court also tried to join the German view. This view has now been rejected.

Max Schrems: "We have already seen many GDPR cases being rejected for no good reason. If there would have been a threshold, it would have been very hard to define it. How many minutes did you have to be angry or cry? The law does not foresee such a threshold, just like there is no threshold for any other claim. You can also bring a lawsuit over 5 cents, the reality is just that no one does that."

Equivalence to other non-material claims. The CJEU also highlighted that national GDPR procedures must not be more complicated than other national court claims. This is especially relevant as many Member States calculate the damages based on an average person - not the individual claimant. This saves claimants from cross-examinations on how much an unlawful publication or broken bone has actually hurt them.

Max Schrems: "We have good laws and practices in place to deal with immaterial damages in other fields of the law. National courts now can't develop a more complicated system for GDPR claims."

Background of the case. The Austrian Postal Service generated statistics about probable political leanings of millions of people. The claimant was assigned a likely interest in the far-right "Freedom Party", however, because the complainant was on an Austrian opt-out list for postal advertising, it was unclear if this information was ever disclosed to a third party. The claimant nevertheless demanded compensation for the illegal processing of his data. The Austrian Supreme Court referred the case to the CJEU for a decision, proposing that the CJEU would introduce a "threshold" for such claims and also frame the case as a violation without real damages.