The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined Prudential for bungling two customer accounts which put tens of thousands of pounds of retirement fund money into the wrong account.
The company merged two accounts who shared the same first name, last name, and date of birth. Presuming they were the same person, Prudential went ahead and joined them up, resulting in years of confusion for both account holders - with the problem only resolved three years later in September 2010.
Prudential had been told of the mistake several time, including from one of the customers who insisted his address had been the same for over 15 years. The ICO says the company didn't bother to take any action, which is why the ICO slapped a £50,000 fine on Prudential - for failing to act for another six months.
The ICO's head of enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said in a statement that firms should make sure the data they keep on customers is kept up to date. "In this case, two customer files were consistently confused and the company failed to remedy the situation despite being alerted to the problem on more than one occasion before it was finally resolved," Eckersley said. "This case would be considered farcical were it not for the serious sums of money involved".
Rather than just headline-grabbing data losses, Eckersley noted, the majority of complaints to the ICO will be about inaccuracies and other problems regarding misuse of information. He highlighted that inaccurate information on a customer's record can have a serious impact on someone's life.
Of course, Prudential will not exactly be shaking in its boots. First half 2012 results for the company reveal International Financial Reporting Standards and new business profit of £1.16 billion and £1.14 billion respectively.
Which means the £50,000 fine is the grand sum of 0.000004 percent of the company's £1.14 billion first half new business profit alone.
*EyeNote Considering the company's namesake: Prudential can be defined as "of, pertaining to, characterised by, or resulting from prudence." Prudence can be defined as "caution with regard to practical matters; discretion".