Small businesses must be well-prepared for forthcoming changes to the way they handle data but are unlikely to find themselves targeted by regulators with the same severity as larger firms, it has been claimed.
Neil Kapusi, co-founder of fashion firm Ushiwear, said that there has not been enough information given to small businesses about the forthcoming introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which can see firms handed stiff fines if they fail to store consumer data securely.
His remarks came during a roundtable discussion held jointly by technology firm Vonage and The Yorkshire Post hosted to look at issues affecting small businesses.
Mr Kapusi, who has a background in professional services, said: “One of the most fundamental things that we have identified in the work that we have been doing is the Government is not doing anything about this.
“They are giving no indication or advice to companies, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses. The bigger businesses are fine, if you are regulated you are fine, same if you have a data protection officer, but a lot of people do not have that.
“They are not going to be going out there looking for a scalp in the next 12 months, they won’t have the ability to do it. The problem you are going to have is if you get a data breach.
“These are key things to your business and if you get it wrong, it is four per cent of your turnover.”
His views were backed up by Roger Vigilance, marketing director at Vonage, who said: “It is a very difficult but manageable process for a big company. I am 99.9 per cent certain that regulatory authorities have no interest in coming after companies of this size and nature. If you are acting responsibly but you don’t comply I doubt very much any one is going to come down hard or even care.”
And Rashmi Dube, founder and chief executive of Legatus Law, said that demonstrating compliance was highly important.
“There are serious consequences in terms of fines on how you use data,” she said.
“If you use it in the same format and are not releasing it or sharing it with anybody else, I wouldn’t take away from the responsibility of showing your documenting process.”
Support for start-up companies as they mature was another notable area for discussion.
Laura Wellington from Duke Studios in Leeds, said: “If you are a start-up business, all the support in the world is there but I think there is a middle that is under-supported. You need to speculate to accumulate of course but often the finance is not there for us.”
Natalie Allen, business development manager at Leeds Beckett University, said: “You need to take risks, it is a case of whether you want to plod along or you want to really grow something.”
Ms Dube suggested the solution that someone from Government level speak directly to business to see what is needed. It sounds like to me that it is that mid-tier support in terms of digital.”
Elsewhere, there was much discussion on the strength and opportunities that Yorkshire as a region has to offer new businesses.
Achille Traore, chief executive of Top Screen Media, said: “What the city needs is for Leeds United to get into the Premier League.
“That would completely change the scene because when you travel somewhere you have to say you are from near Manchester.”
And Rashmi Dube said: “Leeds has got a very good reputation outside of Yorkshire. It is just ensuring that talent stays in Yorkshire and is fully aware of the opportunities.”