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High Court judge grants malicious falsehood and data protection injunctions over video content

A UK businessman has been barred from repeating false statements he made about a rival company and one of its senior employees, and ordered not to process the personal data of that employee again.13 Oct 2017

A High Court judge in London issued an interim injunction against Balvinder Sambhi to prevent potential future cases of malicious falsehood against towing and trailer business Al-Ko Kober and its marketing manager, Paul Jones.

Mrs Justice Whipple separately granted Jones an injunction under the Data Protection Act (DPA) that prohibits Sambhi from processing, further processing or causing or permitting the processing of Jones' personal data any time in the future. The judge ruled the perpetual injunction was justified to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress to Jones.

Mrs Justice Whipple took the action after Al-Ko Kober raised complaints about videos Sambhi had posted on YouTube. The videos included claims made by Sambhi about stabiliser products sold by Al-Ko Kober, which, among other things, can be used by vehicle owners for towing caravans.

According to the ruling, Sambhi claimed that Al-Ko Kober and Jones had made statements guaranteeing that Al-Ko Kober's stabiliser products would prevent 'snaking' – which is where caravans veer from side to side behind a towing vehicle, sometimes resulting in the towing vehicle to lose control and cause accidents.

Mrs Justice Whipple said, though, that the company and Jones had merely stated that the stabilisers would "help to prevent snaking" and did not offer a guarantee of prevention. She said that Sambhi had offered no evidence to show that the stabilisers were defective, and conversely considered evidence provided by Al-Ko Kober, around compliance with EU safety regulations and on testing standards, which purported to demonstrate the safety of its products.

As a result, the judge determined that the claims made by Sambhi were "groundless" and that the statements he had made in his videos were "untrue".

Mrs Justice Whipple stopped short of finding that Sambhi had made the false statements about Al-Ko Kober and Jones with malice, but said that "any future publication … would certainly amount to a malicious falsehood" and so accepted Al-Ko Kober's application for an interim injunction barring Sambhi from making such statements in future.

Jones had raised a separate application for an order under section 10 of the DPA to prevent Sambhi from processing his personal data. Sambhi had secretly recorded Jones in a telephone conversation they had in May this year and used extracts of the recording, as well as footage of comments made by Jones that had appeared in other videos online, within the videos he had produced.

Mrs Justice Whipple accepted that, as the uploader and publisher of the videos, Sambhi was a data controller. She ruled that Jones was suffering "substantial damage and distress" as a result of the processing of his data by Sambhi, and that the use of the information "extends far beyond the sort of criticism which a senior employee of a large commercial organisation might have to put up with in the ordinary course".

She said that Sambhi was responsible for "an unwarranted attack" on Jones and granted the Al-Ko Kober employee his application for an injunction against future processing of his data by Sambhi.

"Mr Jones is being vilified and menaced by the way in which his personal data has been used and manipulated in the videos," Mrs Justice Whipple said.  "Sambhi must not process, further process or cause or permit to be processed any audio recording, video recording, still photograph or other information, including by disclosing the same to the public, amounting to Mr Jones's personal data for the purposes of the DPA."

The judge further reprimanded Sambhi for not having registered his personal data processing operations with the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Under the DPA, organisations cannot process personal data unless they have notified the ICO of their planned activities and have been included in the watchdog's 'Data Controller Register', subject to some exceptions. 

Sambhi was trading under the company name Torquebars.