Collection agency adopts narrow interpretation of access to personal information request

PIPEDA Case Summary #2005-291

(Principle 4.9)

Complaint

An individual alleged that a collection agency denied her full access to her personal information, specifically, the credit bureau report that the agency would have obtained when it took on her file.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant wrote to the collection agency requesting copies of all personal information relating to her. In her letter, she stated that this included, but was not limited to, correspondence sent to and received from her, all information relating to her and her association with the agency's client, and records of all telephone conversations between the agency and anyone it had contacted relating to her and her personal information.

The agency responded four days later, providing her with collection notices, a letter, all documentation sent by its client regarding the debt, and a synopsis of electronic note lines. The complainant, however, wanted a copy of her bureau report. The agency stated that since she had not specifically asked for it, it did not provide it. Our Office responded that if it had this information in its possession at the time the complainant made her request, the agency was obligated to provide it. At the Office's request, the agency released the information.

Findings

Issued February 18, 2005

Application: 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.

Although the agency believed that it did not have to provide the bureau report since the complainant had not specifically requested it, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner noted that her request stated that she wanted "all information" relating to her and her association with the agency's client. Given this, the Assistant Commissioner was of the view that the agency should have released this information when it provided the complainant with access to the rest of her personal information. The agency eventually released this information, in accordance with Principle 4.9. Although the complainant was pleased to receive the bureau report, she felt it could have been in a more client friendly format.

The Assistant Commissioner concluded that the complaint was resolved.

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