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Information about a car can be personal Charles Mabbett
11 October 2017

auto

You have the right not to remain silent – and that includes when you think you might have been overcharged for work done on your car.

In a recent case, a woman complained to our office because a car repair service refused to give her information which she had requested about repairs made to her pick-up truck. She had given the job of getting the vehicle repaired to a local mechanic who had done some earlier work for her. However, he advised her that he was not equipped to carry out this particular job but knew a repair service in another centre that could.

The mechanic then transported the car and delivered it to the repair service. After the vehicle was returned, the mechanic charged the woman $1700 for the work done, plus $500 for transporting the vehicle.

Suspicious cost

The woman was suspicious. The cost of fixing her vehicle seemed high. To make sure, she asked the repair service how much it had charged the mechanic. The vehicle still required more repairs and she needed to know what work had already been carried out as well as a breakdown of the charges. She suspected the mechanic had inflated his bill to her and charged her much more than he had had to pay the business.

But the repair service refused to give her copy of the invoice. They said the mechanic had not given his consent to the business owner for them to give the invoice to the woman. The business manager said because the mechanic had brought the vehicle in, the woman was not entitled to that information, even though she was the registered owner of the vehicle and had provided proof of this.

Principle 6

The woman’s complaint raised issues under principle 6 of the Privacy Act. Principle 6 says individuals have a right to have access to personal information held about them by an agency. Property information, where an individual can be identified from it, could be considered personal information. This is something we need to decide on a case-by-case basis. In this particular case, our investigator decided that as the woman was the owner of the vehicle, the account and repair information was also her personal information.

When an agency receives a request for personal information in accordance with principle 6, it should provide that information to the individual unless one of the withholding grounds set out in sections 27-29 of the Act applies.

We decided none of the withholding grounds applied in this case. We advised the business to hand over the invoice to the woman. The business complied. The woman was satisfied with the outcome and we closed our file on the complaint.

Image credit: Renault Juvaquatre via Pixabay (Creative Commons licence)

3 comments

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Comments

  • The woman would have been better off taking this up with the Disputes Tribunal. The privacy aspect of this is peripheral to the main issue which is a dispute over fees charged for a service.

    Posted by Joe Blogs, 12/10/2017 9:41am (2 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Hi Joe

    This is true for the underlying dispute, but she will likely have a much easier time making her case to the Disputes Tribunal if she has all the relevant information.

    This is not an uncommon situation with requests for personal information. For example, people will sometimes ask for their information in the context of an employment dispute. Here are a couple examples:

    https://privacy.org.nz/news-and-publications/statements-media-releases/privacy-commissioner-names-non-complying-agency/

    https://privacy.org.nz/blog/no-harm-done-by-the-national-library/

    Posted by Sam Grover (OPC), 16/10/2017 10:45am (59 days ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Logically, it makes sense that the mechanic should be transparent about the costs of the repairs he subcontracted and any markup he might make on them. The disputes tribunal definitely seems the best approach to resolving the issue. However, I find it difficult to understand how an invoice, and repair details about an object or possession, could fit the Act's definition of personal information meaning "information about an identifiable individual".

    If the women concerned contracted the repairs to the local mechanic who then subcontracted them to the repair centre then she has no relationship with the repair centre. The invoice to the local mechanic is the outcome of a business transaction between him and the repair centre. The information on it presumably did no need information on it that related to the owner of the vehicle and so was not about her.

    Can you please elaborate on the logic behind the advice?

    Posted by Jim, 01/11/2017 2:27pm (43 days ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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