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Individual complaints about the ACC disclosure are being dealt with by the Privacy Commissioner as required by Part 8 of the Privacy Act. About 75 letters have been sent out so far to individuals who have raised complaints about the disclosure of ACC material in March.

The Privacy Commissioner's complaints process is independent, impartial and confidential. Each complaint is assessed individually and on its own merits.

Our normal processes for complaints are as follows.

Gathering Information

In most cases, we start our process by approaching the complainant first to make sure that we have the correct details - what exactly is their complaint, and who they are complaining about. Often those details aren't clear initially.

Once the facts are clearer, we usually write to the other party (the respondent), stating the complainant's case and asking for the other side of the story.

Finding an interference

We look at the explanations from both the complainant and the respondent. To find an interference with privacy, we have to be satisfied not only that a privacy principle has been breached, but also that the complainant can show that they have suffered harm.

In some cases, the harm might be a loss of dignity, humiliation or injury to feelings. The Privacy Act requires this harm to be 'significant'. Evidence, such as a doctor's letter or report, or information from another independent party, can support a claim of significant harm.

If the harm is significant, a complainant might be able to claim that they are entitled to compensation.

Settlements

Our process looks at reconciliation and explores options to see if the parties can settle. Past settlements have included an apology, an assurance an action will not reoccur, monetary compensation or smaller personal gestures, such as vouchers.

If there is no settlement

If the Privacy Commissioner is unable to settle the complaint, we can refer the matter to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings to bring a case in the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Alternatively, we may close the complaint at that point.

The Tribunal hears the complaint afresh and is not bound by the Privacy Commissioner's outcome. It makes a legal decision about the complaint, and can grant various remedies, including ordering the agency to pay damages to the individual, to restrain them from repeating the actions complained about, or to take certain action to remedy the interference.

Wider issues

Wider questions about the adequacy of ACC's processes and systems for handling personal information are being examined in the course of the independent inquiry into ACC commissioned by the Privacy Commissioner and the Board of ACC and being carried out by KPMG and the former Australian Privacy Commissioner, Malcolm Crompton.

ENDS

For more information on the privacy complaints process:

http://privacy.org.nz/introduction-to-complaints/
http://privacy.org.nz/private-word-issue-73-march-2/?highlight=Mike%20Flahive#dealing

For more information contact Cathy Henry 021 509 735