Settled and Early Resolution Cases

Background

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada receives many inquiries and complaints from Canadians about issues on which the Privacy Commissioner has already issued a finding. Others contact the Office wanting us to find a solution to a privacy problem that they have encountered. Perhaps they want the organization to recognize its mistake and to fix the error, and want the Office to make this happen.

Dispute Resolution

The Office has been handling complaints using dispute resolution since January 2004. Formal findings, in which the Privacy Commissioner concludes that a complaint is well founded, not well founded or resolved, give the complainant the right to go to Federal Court. Many complainants, however, are not interested in pursuing these matters to court. They want their concerns addressed.

Occasionally, the complaint is the result of a miscommunication between the complainant and the organization and the Office works with each side to clarify issues. In other instances, the organization is not fully in compliance with PIPEDA. In those cases, the Office works with the organization to ensure that it is adhering to the law. For complaints where findings have already been issued on the matters raised, the Office brings this fact to the attention of the organization, and a prompt resolution is frequently the result.

Introduction of Settled and Early Resolution Summaries

Starting in January 2004, the Office introduced two types of complaint dispositions. Settled during the course of the investigation means that the Office has helped negotiate a solution during the course of the investigation that satisfies all parties. It should be stressed that the Office must be satisfied with the actions taken by the organization in order for a complaint to be considered settled. Early resolution is applied to situations where the issue is dealt with before a formal investigation is undertaken. The Privacy Commissioner does not issue formal findings in such instances.

Benefits

Not all complaints can or will be settled, of course. The Privacy Commissioner continues to issue formal findings, and some of these cases will go to Federal Court. Formal findings are a necessary tool in setting out the Office's position on privacy matters. However, where complaints can be resolved and compliance ensured without formal findings, the Office will seek to settle such matters. After all, dispute resolution is recognized as a good use of limited Office resources and taxpayer money by solving problems effectively and in a timely manner while still ensuring compliance with PIPEDA.

The following are examples of noteworthy cases where the result was improved personal information protection for Canadians or where the outcome serves a public education purpose. As with the summaries of the Commissioner's findings, complainants are not named, and the organizations are not identified. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be adding new settled and early resolution summaries on an ongoing basis.