The Privacy Commissioner has found a breach of privacy by a water company that refused to supply information to one of its customers.

The company had mixed up the water readings between two neighbours and sent one neighbour’s information to the other neighbour in the form of an invoice.  The neighbour whose information had been sent to the other neighbour sought a copy of the invoice with information from the water company, but they refused on the basis that he was not the name on the account.

The Privacy Commissioner held that the information sent to the neighbour incorrectly belonged to the neighbour who was complaining and the information should be provided to him.

Unfortunately, the water company refused to comply with the Privacy Commissioner’s ruling and refused to supply this information sought to the neighbour.

Under the current Privacy Act the Privacy Commissioner has no power to enforce his decision, but this is set to change under the proposed new Privacy Act.

The neighbour who complained can take a case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal for breach of his privacy and not providing the information that he requested, but that of course is something which requires a large investment of time and finances to achieve any outcome.

Alan Knowsley