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Individual alleges that bank denied him access to his personal information

PIPEDA Case Summary #2002-90

[Section 2, Principle 4.9, Schedule 1]


An individual complained that his bank denied him access to documents pertaining to a commercial mortgage for which he was the guarantor.

Summary of Investigation

Before the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Act) came into force, the complainant co-signed a commercial mortgage, which went into default. The mortgage was in the name of a limited company and the complainant was the guarantor of the mortgage. During the course of his dispute over this mortgage with the bank, the complainant requested three documents:

(1) A mortgage renewal agreement;
(2) A mortgage renewal acknowledgement letter; and
(3) An Affidavit of Documents pertaining to a court action between the complainant and the bank.

The complainant requested document (1) six times, both before and after the Act came into effect, and the bank provided him with it each time. The bank claimed that it did not have the other two documents. With respect to document (2), the bank explained that it does not keep mortgage renewal acknowledgement letters as they are form letters containing basically the same information as can be found in the agreement. The bank further indicated that the letter would have pertained to the commercial mortgage registered to a numbered company, and would have been mailed to the company. It would not therefore have contained any personal information about the guarantor. As for the Affidavit of Documents, it was determined that such a document did not exist.

With respect to the first document, the complainant alleged that information was missing. The Office confirmed that some personal information was absent, specifically an information box for the rate, amortization and payment amount. The other piece of missing information concerned general information regarding mortgage rates and was not considered to be personal information. The bank explained that such documents are typically imaged or microfilmed and that, in this case, the microfilming was done incorrectly as the document was not captured in its entirety. This occurred prior to the coming into force of the Act.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued November 12, 2002

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, 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: Section 2 of the Act defines personal information to be ".information about an identifiable individual.". Principle 4.9 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. An individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

The Commissioner determined that in the case of document (2), it did not contain personal information for the purposes of the Act. In the case of document (3), there was no evidence that such a document existed.

The Commissioner determined further that since the complainant had signed a personal guarantee on the mortgage renewal agreement, document (1), this document contained personal information to which he had a right of access. Although a portion of the document was missing due to a microfilming error, the Commissioner accepted that the document provided to the complainant was the only version the bank had on file. The Commissioner declared it was unfortunate that such an error had occurred, however, as this transpired prior to the Act, he determined the bank could not be held to have contravened Principle 4.9.

The Commissioner therefore found that the bank had complied with the access provisions of Principle 4.9 of the Act.

He therefore concluded that the complaint was not well-founded.

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