The Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial Matters of Rosario granted an habeas data action requested by a claimant who was not provided with sufficient information.

Recently, the Third Division of the Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial Matters of Rosario confirmed a decision issued against Martínez de Alzaga SA in a habeas data action, holding that the company (data controller) had not provided sufficient information to the plaintiff when so requested (Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial Matters of Rosario, Third Division, “Da Rosa, Claudio S. v. Martínez de Alzaga S.A.”, Docket No. 110/15, decision dated March 16, 2016).

The facts of the case are as follows: The claimant sought to exercise the right that data subjects have to access their own personal data under Section 14 of Data Protection Law No. 25,326 (“DPL”), and contacted Martínez de Alzaga SA requesting information on his data. He later brought a habeas data action against the company. The first instance court ruled for the claimant.

The company appealed, arguing that (i) it had provided the information in a letter sent to the claimant in response to his out-of-court communication (ii) it had again provided the information when it responded to the judicial claim, and (iii) it should not have the burden of proving that it had provided sufficient information.

The Court of Appeals confirmed the lower court’s decision. In doing so, it held that data subjects can resort to habeas data actions not only when an out-of-court request for access in the terms of the DPL has been denied or ignored, but also when it has been answered with insufficient information. Consequently, the fact that Martínez de Alzaga SA failed to respond to the claimant’s satisfaction enabled him to bring the habeas data action before the courts. The Court also cited legal opinions to the effect that habeas data actions do not necessarily require a prior attempt to access the information by other means, but considered that the existence of such an attempt could influence the assignment of judicial costs.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeals also rejected the company’s assertion that the claimant had to prove that the information provided had been insufficient. It held that Martínez de Alzaga SA had the burden of demonstrating it had made all the information it possessed available, because it was in a better position to produce the evidence.

On this basis, the Court accepted the plaintiff’s claim. However, it did alter the lower court’s ruling regarding judicial costs. It assigned twenty percent (20%) of them to the claimant, because the company was not given the chance to amend the response deemed insufficient before court proceedings were brought.

In sum, the Court of Appeals established that insufficient information is grounds for a habeas data action, contributing to discussions on how the right of access granted by the DPL operates in relation to the constitutional right to bring forward habeas data actions.