The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies directly to companies and organisations located in the European Union (EU) and around the world. The law has a deliberately wide scope, based on how personal data about individuals in the EU are collected, used, monitored and stored. Companies and organisations that do not have an established presence in the EU must appoint a Data Protection Representative (Representative) based in the EU in line with Article 27 of the GDPR. This rule is not new, it has been an EU requirement, in a more limited form, since 1995. The Representative allows individuals in the EU to directly enforce their data protection rights and gives EU GDPR regulators a reliable point of contact within their countries.

The Representative is a strategic role, helping foreign companies and organisations to actively monitor GDPR regulators’ priorities, enforcement and key guidance. It is also practical, allowing individuals, users and consumers in the EU to have an access point in the EU. The Representative is more likely to communicate with them in local languages and appreciate local risks, norms and expectations. The Representative is also legally required to understand data flows that affect individuals based in the EU by being involved with GDPR Records of Processing Activities (ROPAs).

1. What types of companies or organisations need European Data Protection Representatives?

Companies and organisations that have no established presence in the EU but process the personal data of individuals in the EU and carry out activities that are covered by the GDPR. This applies whether the personal data processing takes places inside or outside of the EU. The company or organisation can be a Controller or Processor as defined by the GDPR. However, non-EU based public bodies, government organisations, diplomatic missions and consular posts do not have to appoint European Data Protection Representatives.

2. When does a company or organisation need to appoint a European Data Protection Representative?

Companies and organisations should review their data flows, personal data inventories and GDPR ROPAs on a continuous basis to check if their activities are covered by the GDPR. Where companies and organisations offer goods or services to individuals in the EU, even free services, or monitor the behaviour of individuals based in the EU, the need for a European Data Protection Representatives must be considered. That a non-EU website, email address and other contact details are accessible within the the EU, does not, by itself, mean a Representative is required. Companies and organisations should consider whether they use EU languages in their trading or work, use EU currencies, deploy marketing targeted at EU users and consumers or provide users with direct facilities to order and receive goods and services. The use of geographic targeting technologies, cookies, profiling EU users and other monitoring and surveillance could indicate the need for a Representative. Foreign companies and organisations that employ staff, contractors, distributors and agents in the EU are also likely to need to consider appointing a European Data Protection Representative.

The requirement does not apply if the processing of personal data about those in the EU is occasional, small scale or there is no large-scale processing of special categories of personal data or criminal records data that negatively impact the rights and freedoms of individuals.

3. What are the legal duties and key requirements of European Data Protection Representatives?

EU GDPR Representatives:

(a) Must maintain ROPAs of the Controller’s or Processor’s personal data flows.

(b) Cooperate with EU GDPR regulators (Supervisory Authorities).

(c) Be situated in an EU country where individuals who are offered goods, offered services or have their behaviour monitored, are based.

(d) Be appointed by the foreign-based Controller or Processor and can be contacted by EU GDPR regulators and individuals in the EU, in addition to, or instead of, the Controller or Processor.

(e) Act as the Controller’s or Processor’s Representative, but the Controller and Processor remain responsible, liable and directly subject to legal and regulatory action in the EU.

(f) Carry out the Data Protection Representative Service as specifically agreed with the Controller or Processor.

(g) Are subject to enforcement proceedings for non-compliance by the Controller or Processor.

(h) Are designated and appointed in writing by the Controller or Processor.

4. What are the differences between GDPR-appointed Data Protection Officers and GDPR European Data Protection Representatives? Can the roles be carried out by the same person or organisation?

The Data Protection Officer is largely an internal appointment who must act independently and report to the highest level of management in a company or organisation. The Data Protection Officer should not perform an operational role in charge of data processing in the organisation, at the same time. The Data Protection Representative is largely outward facing, positioned to liaise with individuals whose personal data are being processed and with EU GDPR regulators. The Representative is not restricted from taking part in the operational aspects of the Controller’s or Processor’s data processing activities.

The Representative must act within the terms of the appointment and the mandate of the Controller or Processor, as a type of agent. The Representative is not legally required to be independent but must represent and stand in the place of the Controller or Processor within the EU. If a single entity or person attempted to act as both a GDPR Data Protection Officer and a European Data Protection Representative at the same time, there is likely to be a conflict of interest and practical limitations. However, both roles share the need for ROPA expertise and the ability to work effectively with individuals and EU GDPR regulators.

5. The United Kingdom (UK) has left the EU, should UK Data Protection Representatives be appointed to comply with UK data protection law? Do companies and organisations based in countries that have a data protection adequacy agreement with the EU need to appoint European Data Protection Representatives?

The UK’s exit from the EU means that it is no longer an EU Member State. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the data protection and GDPR regulator, is no longer a GDPR Supervisory Authority or member of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). The UK has carried forward the GDPR, and so where a company or organisation needs to appoint a European Data Protection representative, if the same or similar data processing activities take place in the UK, a UK Data Protection Representative should be appointed. This requirement will continue even when the UK gains a data protection adequacy agreement from the EU. At present, all companies and organisations in the European Economic Area (EEA) and those based in countries that have an EU data protection adequacy agreement still need to appoint Data Protection Representatives in the EU, if they process personal data, have no established presence within the EU but offer goods, offer services (even for free), or monitor individuals’ behaviour in the EU.  This is true, even where this data processing activity never takes place on equipment that operates within the EU (or the UK).  

To access our European Data Protection (GDPR) Representative services, UK Data Protection Representative services, Data Protection Officer services or Brexit data services, contact PrivacySolved:

London +44 207 175 9771

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