German Court: Data Protection Authorities may not base administrative orders before the 25 May 2018 on the EU General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies from 25 May 2018 (Art. 99 (2) GDPR). The GDPR has already entered into force on 24 May 2016. However, it does not apply until 25 May 2018. Only from this date on, the requirements of the GDPR are binding and enforceable by the data protection authorities (DPAs) in the Member States.


In Germany, the DPA of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg at the end of 2016 was of another opinion. On 6 July 2017, the Administrative Court of Karlsruhe (with its decision in case 10 K 7698/16, pdf; in German) (Court) annulled an administrative order by the DPA of 25 November 2016, in which a credit bureau was obligated to delete claims within the meaning of Sec. 28a of the German Federal Data Protection Act (Act) and the related information about persons which the credit bureau stored, after the 24 May 2018, after the expiry of three years, starting with the date of the due date, unless the person concerned is insolvent or unwilling to pay at that time.

The DPA based its decision, among other things, on the purpose to prevent any abuses which the DPA expected to occur after 24 May 2018. The currently still valid Sec. 35 (2) sentence 2 no. 4 of the Act, which stipulates certain deadlines for the examination for the deletion of data, finds no correspondence in the GDPR and also not in the new German Federal Data Protection Act.

Although the credit bureau had announced that it intends to adapt its data erasure concept to the GDPR as of 25 May 2018, in the view of the DPA, this the announcement was merely a declaration of intent.

The judgement

The Court rightly upheld the complaint by the credit bureau against the administrative order of the DPA. There exists no legal basis for the administrative order.

The DPA also based its decision on Recital 39 GDPR, according to which, in order to ensure that personal data are not kept longer than necessary, time limits should be established by the controller for erasure or for a periodic review. However, Recital 39 GDPR does not indicate that the controller would already be obliged to create appropriate review and deletion periods before the GDPR applies.

The Court notices:

An authorization to act before the application of the GDPR – to ensure at an early stage that the regulations applicable in the future will be respected by the controller in the light of the legal opinion of the supervisory authority – cannot be inferred from the GDPR or the current Act.

This finding of the Court is relevant for companies during the time period until 25 May 2018. The Court correctly clarifies that a DPA is not allowed to enforce any provisions that are not yet applicable at all.

In addition, the DPA relied on Art. 58 (2) d) GDPR. Thereafter, a supervisory authority shall have the corrective power to order the controller or processor to bring processing operations into compliance with the provisions of this Regulation, where appropriate, in a specified manner and within a specified period. Like the entire GDPR, of course, Art. 58 GDPR is only applicable and enforceable if the GDPR applies. Therefore, only from 25 May 2018.

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