Findings under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

PIPEDA Case Summary #2003-224

Bank failed to correct credit rating discrepancy and to provide access to financial records

[Principles 4.6, 4.6.1 and 4.9, Schedule 1]

Complaint

An individual complained that a bank

  1. had not given a credit agency updated information about her account; and
  2. had failed to provide her with information concerning her financial records.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant incurred a credit card debt with a bank, which resulted in her being given a negative credit rating. The bank subsequently agreed to upgrade the rating with both credit reporting agencies but then neglected to have one of the ratings changed. When the complainant realized that one of her ratings was still derogatory and that, as a result, she had been forced to pay high interest on loans she had received, she contacted the bank to have the discrepancy corrected and to obtain copies of the relevant financial records. Despite her repeated attempts to obtain assistance, the bank did not respond satisfactorily.

The bank eventually informed the complainant by letter that her account had been deleted from both credit agencies' records. The bank's ombudsman did not respond to her request for a copy of her financial records, and only when the complainant hired a lawyer to represent her did she gain access to these records.

The bank admitted that its failure to have the second credit rating changed was an oversight on its part, and that its failure to respond to the complainant's requests for her financial records was due to human error.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued October 7, 2003

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the Act) applies to any federal work, undertaking or business. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because a bank is a federal work, undertaking or business as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.6 states that personal information shall be as accurate, complete and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used. Principle 4.6.1 goes on to state that information shall be sufficiently accurate, complete, and up-to-date to minimize the possibility that inappropriate information may be used to make a decision about the individual. Principle 4.9 states in part that an individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of personal information and have it amended as appropriate. Principle 4.9 also states that upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information.

Regarding the first complaint, the Commissioner deliberated as follows:

  • It was undisputed that the complainant's numerous attempts to challenge the accuracy and completeness of her credit rating and to have it amended were ignored by the bank.
  • The bank itself admitted that it made an error when it failed to have the credit rating discrepancy corrected.
  • A derogatory credit rating would have had a negative impact on the complainant's ability to secure loans at favourable interest rates.

The Commissioner found therefore that the bank had contravened Principles 4.6, 4.6.1 and 4.9.

He concluded that the first complaint was well-founded.

Regarding the second complaint, the Commissioner deliberated as follows:

  • It was evident that the complainant made a number of attempts to obtain her financial records, and that she either received no response or was told that these records did not exist.
  • The bank admitted that it had made an error in not responding to the complainant.
  • Moreover, while the bank responded to the complainant's request to the ombudsman concerning her credit rating, it did not address the matter of her personal records.
  • Only when the complainant hired a lawyer to request the records on her behalf, an action that should not have been necessary, was she given access to her records.

The Commissioner found therefore that the bank had contravened Principle 4.9.

He concluded that the second complaint was well-founded.