Telecommunications company, Orcon Ltd instructed Baycorp to recover $208.58 owed by Mr Taylor, a solider in the NZ Army. This instruction had “an immediate effect” on Mr Taylor’s credit rating and made it almost impossible for him to find rental accommodation for his wife and baby daughter. Mr Taylor claimed that the debt had been waived by agreement, meaning that the information Orcon had supplied Baycorp was inaccurate and therefore in breach of Principle 8 of the Privacy Act.
The Human Rights Tribunal agreed with Mr Taylor, awarding him $25,000 – $10,000 for loss of benefit and $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to feelings. It also ordered Orcon to provide training to its staff in relation its obligations under the Act.
There are two points of general note.
First, organisations supplying personal customer details to a debt collection or credit reporting agency must ensure that the information is accurate, up to date, and not misleading. Here, Orcon had breached its legal responsibility by failing to investigate the facts in dispute before referring the debt to Baycorp.
Second, to meet the materiality threshold for an “interference” under section 66 of the Privacy Act, it is not necessary for the act or omission to be the sole, main, direct, indirect or “but for” cause of the harm. It is sufficient to establish that it made or might have made a more than trivial contribution to the occurrence or loss.
Link: Taylor v Orcon Ltd