Bank accused of withholding bond certificates

PIPEDA Case Summary #2001-13

[Principle 4.9, Schedule 1; and Section 8]

Complaint

An individual complained that a bank had denied her access to her personal information in the form of two "Small Business Bonds" that she believed the bank was holding under her name.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant specified that the documents[she was seeking were the paper versions or certificates of two "Small Business Bonds". In 1982, the complainant and her spouse had consolidated their outstanding indebtedness to the bank in question under the Small Business Bond (SBB) Program, a federal government initiative that provided interest relief for borrowers. The bank had advised the complainant as early as 1984 that "Small Business Bond" was only a term used and that the only actual document signed in respect of the SBB Program was a form entitled "Election in Respect of an SBB". Both the bank and Industry Canada have confirmed that this form was the only document directly related to the program; no actual paper versions or certificates of SBBs had ever existed. In 1998, during a lawsuit over the complainant's defaulting on her loan agreement, the bank had been obliged to disclose to the complainant and her lawyer all documents it held in relation to her involvement in the SBB Program. The complainant received her signed "Election in Respect of an SBB" form at that time and was still in possession of it when she filed her complaint with the Office.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued September 18, 2001

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act applies to federal works, undertakings, or businesses. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because banks are federal works, undertakings, or businesses as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.9, Schedule 1, states that upon request an individual must be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and be given access to that information. Section 8 sets out conditions under which a request may be deemed to have been refused.

The Commissioner found no evidence of the existence of SBB-related documents other than those already received by the complainant. Satisfied that the documents sought by the complainant did not exist, he found that the bank had not refused the complainant a right of access.

The Commissioner concluded therefore that the complaint was not well-founded.

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