The legitimacy and scope of the UODO’s inspection cannot be questioned
The Voivodship Administrative Court (WSA) in Warsaw, in the justification of its judgment of 23 February 2021, fully shared the position and all arguments of the President of Personal Data Protection Office (UODO) expressed in the decision imposing a fine in the amount of PLN 100 000 on the Surveyor General of Poland (Główny Geodeta Kraju, GGK) for making the inspection impossible. The court was critical of both the GGK's actions in terms of cooperation with UODO and all its arguments presented in the complaint against the decision of the supervisory authority.
In its justification of the judgment of February 23, 2021 (ref. no. II SA/Wa 1746/20), the WSA stated that in a state governed by the rule of law it is inconceivable to prevent inspections, boycott and question the powers of the President of the UODO. The court also noted that a public authority, such as the GGK, should be familiar with the law and know, even without the need to obtain relevant documents, what powers the UODO has and what the legal basis for its actions are.
The WSA referred to the GGK's explanations concerning the annotation on the UODO's authorisations to carry out inspections with the refusal of consent to perform inspection activities. In its complaint to the WSA, the GGK claimed that it was an expression of a critical opinion on the scope of the UODO’s inspection and not a manifestation of making the inspection difficult or impossible. The WSA found this claim to be illogical.
The GGK's arguments that the inspection should take place not at its premises, but at the Head Office of Land Surveying and Cartography were also not confirmed. The court fully agreed with the UODO that the Head Office of Land Surveying and Cartography is an organisational unit through which the GGK exercises its authority. Therefore, the WSA noted that the Office correctly indicated the place where the inspection was performed.
The arguments of the GGK concerning, inter alia, the fact that in this case it was "impossible to file and examine an effective legal remedy before the court" and that the case was examined by a court without full jurisdiction were also not confirmed. In addition, they raised serious concerns of the WSA about the GGK's familiarity with the law. According to the Court, the Surveyor General of Poland should know that in the Polish legal system, the review of the decision of the President of UODO takes place by way of a complaint to the Voivodship Administrative Court.
When assessing the amount of the administrative fine, the Court shared the opinion of the President of the UODO. According to the Court, a fine lower than PLN 100 000 would not fulfil its deterrent function. Moreover, a fine of such an amount has a disciplinary and preventive character.
The Court also found that the justification for the amount of the fine imposed is logical and has been exhaustively explained by the President of the Personal Data Protection Office.
There are more arguments of the GGK which were not confirmed by the WSA. Therefore, we publish below the full justification of the WSA's judgment and encourage you to read it (only in Polish version).