A woman told us that she had applied for a job as a part-time retail assistant with a large retail chain employer.
The job application had been completed online on the store's website. As part of the process she was required to consent to the store carrying out a credit check on her. The woman's application was unsuccessful, and she complained to us that she considered the store's collection of her credit report was unnecessary for the purpose of determining whether she was a suitable applicant.
We contacted the store, who advised that no credit check had been carried out on the woman. It said that credit checks were only carried out after interviews had been conducted and a preferred candidate for a job identified - the credit check was a final step in the recruitment process. It said consent was obtained from every applicant via the online application process for reasons of efficiency.
We relayed this to the woman, who subsequently decided not to pursue the complaint. However we considered that the store's practices raised issues under principles 1 and 3 of the Privacy Act, and asked it to provide some further information.
Principle 1 of the Privacy Act requires an agency to only collect personal information if it has a lawful purpose connected with a function or activity of the agency, and the collection of the information is necessary for that purpose.
We did not think that it was necessary for a credit check to be carried out for the position of a part-time retail assistant. Under the Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004 employers can only access credit information where a job involves significant financial risk to the employer. We did not consider that a part-time retail assistant job posed such a risk.
The store accepted this view, and undertook not to carry out credit checks for sales assistant positions in the future.
Principle 3 of the Privacy Act generally requires that, when an agency collects personal information from an individual, they tell that individual why they are doing so, and what the information will be used for.
We considered that the store's online application process did not make it sufficiently clear to applicants what personal information was being collected about them and for what purpose, including that credit checks would only be carried out at the end of the recruitment process.
The store agreed to amend its online application process to ensure that future applicants understood what information was being collected about them, and for what purpose.
As the store had accepted our views and amended its processes accordingly we closed our file.
Collection of personal information - credit information - unnecessary collection for position being applied for - unclear what information was being collected - Privacy Act 1993; principle 1, principle 3