Fact Sheets

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act

On January 1, 2001, Canada introduced a law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), to protect individuals' privacy in their dealings with organizations in the private sector.

The legislation balances an individual's right to the privacy of personal information with the need of organizations to collect, use or disclose personal information for legitimate business purposes.

PIPEDA applies to organizations engaged in commercial activities across the country, except in provinces that have substantially similar private sector privacy laws. Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia each have their own law covering the private sector.

However, even in those provinces that have enacted laws covering the private sector, PIPEDA continues to apply to the federally regulated private sector (organizations such as banks, telephone companies, cable television and broadcasting companies) and to personal information in inter-provincial and international transactions. PIPEDA also protects employee information, but only in the federally regulated sector.

To access personal information held by an organization

  • Send a written request to the organization holding your personal information. You must provide enough detail to allow the organization to identify the information you want; for example, include dates, account numbers, and the names or positions of people you may have dealt with at the organization.
  • Organizations must provide the information requested within a reasonable time and at minimal or no cost.

To correct errors or omissions to your personal information

  • Write to the organization that has personal information about you and explain the correction you are requesting and why.
  • Supply copies of any documents that support your request, if you have them.
  • If the organization refuses to correct your personal information, you may require it to attach a statement of your disagreement to the file, where appropriate. This statement must be passed on to any other organization that may have access to the information.

To file a complaint

  • Contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Investigations Branch during business hours by calling (819) 994-5444, or toll free 1-800-282-1376, to gather more information and advice on how you should proceed.
  • Filing a complaint with our Office is free of charge and we are here to assist you throughout the process. There is no need to hire special advisors to help you file a complaint with our Office.
  • We encourage you to try to settle the matter directly with the organization about which you are complaining by contacting the person responsible for handling privacy issues within the organization.
  • If you are not satisfied with the organization's response, you may contact the organization's industry association, ombudsman or complaint office, if there is one. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association and the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments handle customers' complaints about their member companies.

If you are not satisfied with the way the organization or industry association handles the matter, contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada during business hours by calling 1-800-282-1376 toll-free, or go to our website for more information about how to file a complaint under PIPEDA.

Please do not make complaints or provide personal information by e-mail, as security cannot be ensured.