"There will always be doors in the back of systems...The company at the centre of a leak of consumers' personal data has responded by pulling down the offending web pages and saying it is well aware of its data protection obligations. Shopping portal http://www.ukshops.co.uk - which bills itself as a virtual city featuring many well-known high street names - unwittingly exposed details including postal address, phone number, gender and age group of more than 1,700 individuals. The site users had filled out a form, which in turn also asked them to recommend three friends - also listed online by name and email address - taking the total number affected to almost 7,000. silicon.com heard about the breach from customer Derek Linfield who found his details after doing a web search under his own name. Speaking from Australia, Nicholas Tee, MD of UK Shopping City, the company behind http://www.ukshops.co.uk, told silicon.com: "We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We've been running this site since 1995 and since changing over servers recently there must have been a problem." He said his company is aware of the Data Protection Act 1998 and even wrote to the Information Commissioner's Office four to five months ago with a complaint of his own. He said the company acted as quickly as it could to fix the problem, his trip to Australia and inactive phone numbers on his site meaning no one responded to calls from silicon.com 24 hours earlier. Alan Walker, UK Shopping City webmaster for the past three years, said: "We've never had problems before but people will always have them. It's a never ending rat race and there will always be doors in the back of systems." He said it is unlikely the company will contact people whose details have been exposed and added: "It's the same as someone buying a CD ROM from BT for £50. It's still not right but details are readily available." Lawyers yesterday told silicon.com the authorities must start to punish financially even minor breaches of the Act, to make flouting it less likely in the future. The Information Commissioner's Office said it would look into the case after being contacted by silicon.com.