Telco takes action to improve how its privacy policies are disseminated

PIPEDA Case Summary #2004-274

(Principles 4.8, 4.8.1 of Schedule 1)

Complaint

A customer alleged that his cellular phone company could not explain the calls he received from what he believed was a telemarketer working on the company’s behalf.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant received a call on his cell phone from a computer-generated voice, asking him to hold the line. After one minute, the call was disconnected. The company placing the call did not identify itself, nor was its telephone number shown on the complainant’s call display screen.

The next day, he received another phone call, this time from an individual who stated that he worked for an organization hired by the cellular phone company. This person asked him whether he had recently received a call from a member of the cell phone company’s client care team. The complainant objected to this call and telephoned his cell phone provider. He spoke with a number of company representatives before he was given any kind of information about these calls or an explanation as to why the company appeared to be disclosing his personal information to a third party.

Our Office confirmed that the cell phone company had employed a firm to perform market research on its behalf. It was the market research firm that had contacted the complainant, not a telemarketer.

The cell phone company provided the research firm with the complainant’s name, cell phone number, and the fact that he had recently received a call from its client care team. The cell phone provider’s privacy brochure did state that it might disclose customer personal information to an organization employed to perform certain functions on the company’s behalf. The brochure also states that customers may opt out of such an activity. The complainant indicated that he did not object to receiving the call; rather, he was upset that no one from the telecommunications company could confirm that the call was legitimate.

A representative of the cell phone company called the complainant to apologize for the lack of information provided to him and to explain the purpose of the call from the research firm. As a result of the complaint, client service representatives were provided with an information package regarding the research firm so that they could better respond to customer inquiries in the future.

Findings

Issued May 31, 2004

Application : Principle 4.8 states that an organization shall make readily available to individuals specific information about its policies and practices relating to the management of personal information; and Principle 4.8.1 stipulates that organizations shall be open about their policies and practices with respect to the management of personal information. Individuals shall be able to acquire information about an organization’s policies and practices without unreasonable effort.

Given the difficulties faced by the complainant in obtaining an explanation from his cell phone provider about a call or calls he received from the research firm, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner found that the company had not met the expectations outlined in Principles 4.8 and 4.8.1. The Assistant Commissioner was pleased, however, that client service representatives have since been given an information package about the firm so that they can respond to customer inquiries. The complainant indicated that he was satisfied with this action.

The Assistant Commissioner therefore concluded that the complaint was resolved.

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