Chris Combemale, the DMA Group chief executive, called on the secretary of state for justice, Liz Truss, to use powers that were brought in by the government in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
From spring 2017, the Information Commissioner’s Office will be able to hold rogue directors personally responsible for breaches under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Company directors will be liable for fines of up to £500,000 each.
However, according to figures from Which? published earlier this year, the ICO has collected four out of 22 fines in full that it has issued over the past 12 months.
The DMA said the government should now go one step further and bring in custodial sentences for the worst breaches of data protection law.
It requires a vote in both houses of parliament to allow custodial sentences for breaches of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act.
Combemale said: "It should come as no surprise that individuals willing to skirt the law when it suits them are also ready to do the same to avoid paying their debts.
"That’s why the powers of the ICO have recently been extended to also allow it to fine the directors that set up multiple companies to avoid justice.
"We wholeheartedly support the extension of fines to the individuals that are behind the rogue businesses, but for the worst and repeat offenders we believe the penalties should extend to custodial sentences as well."