The legal ombudsman is being sued by former complainants whose contact details were leaked in an email blunder, the Gazette can reveal.
In June, some 300 people received an email from the ombudsman asking them to review how well their complaints had been handled. However, the ombudsman published the names and contact details of all 300 recipients in the address bar by mistake.
A ‘small number’ of addressees have now joined together to take legal action against the organisation. They are being represented by data breach specialist Hayes Connor Solicitors.
One claimant told the Gazette: ‘The nature of the disclosure implies that the individual has a legal problem and has complained about a legal service provider. That information is sensitive and confidentiality should have been maintained by the Legal Ombudsman.’
He added that the ombudsman had tried to ‘close down the fuss’ by telling them that litigation would be stressful and costly.
Those affected by the data breach were also incensed to find out that the ombudsman had exonerated the majority of the firms they had complained about, the Gazette understands.
According to one claimant, this was discovered when email recipients used the leaked contact details to swap messages about their complaints. He said: 'To cut to the chase, every responder was deeply unhappy with the complaints handling and then dismayed further by the disclosure of their individual addresses to each other.'
In April, the Home Office had to apologise to hundreds of EU citizens who applied for settled status in the UK after it accidentally shared their details. In an 'administrative error' the Home Office revealed about 240 personal email addresses in a group email.
The LeO said immediate action was taken when it was made aware of the breach. It contacted the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) which confirmed that no further action was required as it was satisfied with the remedial action taken. Everyone who was involved in the breach was contacted, in accordance with ICO guidance.