The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken formal enforcement action against 34 organizations that have failed to pay the new data protection fee.

The data protection regulator has sent notices of its intent to fine the organizations unless they pay. Those who don’t could face a maximum fine of £4,350 (U.S. $5,678).

All organizations that process personal data must pay a fee to the ICO, unless they are exempt. The money is used to fund the ICO’s data protection work and new and expanded services we have introduced such as our advice line, more online resources, and new guidance as strengthened data protection laws have come into force.

“We expect the notices we have issued to serve as a final demand to organizations and that they will pay before we proceed to a fine, but we will not hesitate to use our powers if necessary,” said Paul Arnold, deputy chief executive officer at the ICO. “All organizations that are required to pay the data protection fee must prioritize payment or risk getting a formal letter from us outlining enforcement action.”

The 34 notices of intent were sent in early September to a range of organizations across both the public and private sector including the NHS, recruitment, finance, government, and accounting. More notices are in the drafting stage and will be issued soon, the ICO said.

Organizations have 21 days to respond to the notices. If they pay, action will stop. Those that ignore the notices or refuse to pay may face a fine ranging from £400 (U.S. $522) to £4,000 (U.S. $5,221) depending on the size and turnover of the organization. Aggravating factors may lead to an increase in the fine up to a maximum of £4,350.

The data protection fee is set by government, which has a statutory duty to ensure the ICO is adequately funded and is part of the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018. It came into force on 25 May to coincide with the new Data Protection Act (2018) and the General Data Protection Regulation. And it replaces the need to notify or register with the ICO.

The money helps fund the ICO’s work to uphold information rights such as investigations into data breaches and complaints, our popular advice line, and guidance and resources for organizations to help them understand and comply with their data protection obligations. The ICO has grown over the last two years—now employing around 670 staff.

Under the funding model, set by government, organizations are divided into three tiers based on their size, turnover, and whether an organization is a public authority or charity. For small organizations, the fee won’t be any higher than the £35 they currently pay (if they take advantage of a £5 (U.S. $7) reduction for paying by direct debit). Larger organizations will be required to pay a higher fee of £2,900 (U.S. $3,785), because these organizations are likely to hold and process the largest volumes of data and, therefore, represent a greater level of risk, the ICO said.

The ICO has produced a fee calculator tool and guidance on the data protection fee. Organizations that have a current registration (or notification) under the 1998 Act—prior to 25 May 2018—do not have to pay the new fee until that registration has expired.