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Complaint about access request settled as audio recordings were deleted in accordance with retention policy

Settled case summary #2016-001

May 30, 2016

Lessons Learned

  • An organization that responds within the time limit and refuses to provide access to an individual’s personal information in response to a request must inform the individual in writing of the refusal, setting out the reasons and any recourse that the individual may have pursuant to subsection 8(7) of PIPEDA.
  • When personal information has been destroyed in accordance with an organization’s retention policy, an individual should be advised of this in response to their personal information access request. For additional information related to retention, organizations can consult our office’s publication Personal Information Retention and Disposal: Principles and Best Practices.


A customer of a travel agency was seeking reimbursement of a credit for cancelled airfare. He called the agency in December 2014 and February 2015, and spoke with different customer service agents, conversations which he believed were recorded by the agency. The customer sent an email to the agency in October 2015, requesting access to recordings of the telephone conversations. According to the customer, the agency’s privacy policy posted on its website indicates that the agency provides this type of personal information to individuals when requested by email. After not hearing back from the agency, the customer sent additional emails and then called customer service about his access request. According to the customer, the agency advised that it would not be providing him with access to the requested information but also provided him with another email address that he could use to raise his concerns.

The customer sent an email to the other address for the agency, but delivery failed. The customer sent additional emails to the initial address but received no response. Consequently, the customer filed a complaint with our office in November 2015.

Summary of investigation

When our office spoke with the agency, it advised that its retention period for audio recordings was 180 days. In response to whether the agency had responded to the customer’s request for access to recordings by advising that they no longer existed, the agency indicated that the customer had been told in a telephone call in October 2015 that the audio recordings of the telephone discussions were no longer available and had been destroyed in accordance with this retention period. The agency advised that it was willing to provide the customer with a written registry of bookings and interactions between the customer and its agents.

Our office informed the customer that given the length of time between the telephone discussions and the request for access to the recordings (approximately eight to ten months), the recordings no longer existed. The customer was also advised that there is no requirement in PIPEDA to record telephone calls. With respect to the dispute involving the reimbursement of a credit, the customer was informed that our office could not assist him with having the credit refunded. The customer advised our office that he wanted a copy of the written registry of the telephone calls in question, as well as a list of his personal information in the agency’s possession. This request was communicated to the agency.


The agency subsequently provided the complainant with a written registry of telephone calls, as well as a list of his personal information in the agency’s possession. As a result, the customer considered this matter settled.

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