Around 87 per cent of businesses are unable to estimate the costs of the draft EC proposals to their business.
According to a survey of 506 businesses by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), there is a clear lack of understanding around the proposed EU data reforms, particularly around estimated cost expenditure on meeting data protection responsibilities under the new law.
The survey also found that 40 per cent of companies do not fully understand any of the ten main provisions being proposed and that none of the survey respondents could accurately describe all of the ten provisions.
It said that this "suggests that a large proportion of companies in the UK do not have a clear grasp of how data protection regulation will change once the EC proposals are enforced".
The ICO's report found that the European Commission estimated that the new legislative framework would bring net savings for economic operators of €2.3 billion, while the Ministry of Justice estimated a net cost to UK business of between £80 million and £320 million per year.
Information commissioner Christopher Graham said: “Few people I've spoken to disagree with the need for an updated European data protection law to better meet the challenges of the 21st century. But to deliver real improvements, it's crucial that legislation is developed that better reflects the way personal information is used today and will be used in the future.
“There has been much talk of ‘what is best for business', but that must be based on valid evidence. This reform is too important for guesswork.
“Today's report is the latest contribution from the ICO to this debate. We'd urge the European Commission to take on board what it says, and to refocus on the importance of developing legislation that delivers real protections for consumers without damaging business or hobbling regulators.”
The ICO said that the research is aimed at strengthening the ICO's efforts to assist business with the implementation of and ongoing compliance with the new regulation, in order to achieve maximum benefits at the least cost to business, while ensuring individuals' privacy rights are upheld.
In a recent SC Magazine webcast, speakers including former information commissioner Richard Thomas claimed that some of the directives, such as 24-hour reporting would not be burdensome, but changes to fines could be a problem.