New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Case note 272681 [2016] NZ PrivCmr 4:: misidentification by credit reporting agency

June 15, 2016 |

In Case note 272681 [2016] NZ PrivCmr 4 the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner considered the issue of misidentification by a credit reporting agency.

FACTS

The Complainant underwent male-to-female gender reassignment surgery and, as woman, changed her name to match her gender.  After the name change, she applied for credit for a number of things, such as hire purchase agreements and home rentals.

The lender checked the Complainant’s information with a credit reporting agency. The agency advised that the woman had previously gone by another name.

The Complainant complained that there had been a breach of Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004 because the agency had breached her privacy by identifying her under her old name, not her current name. She also believed that the agency had disclosed her information without her permission.

The complainant argued that the credit reporting agency breached rule 8 of the Credit Reporting Code 2004 by listing her under the wrong name, and rule 11 by disclosing her old name to  prospective credit providers without her authorisation.

DECISION

The issues under the Credit Reporting Privacy Code 2004 was:

  • rule 8: credit reporters must ensure the information they hold is accurate;
  • rule 11; credit reporters must not disclose information unless one of the exceptions applies.

The Commissioner found that the agency had told potential creditors about the woman’s former name, but had not disclosed any of the transactions associated with that name. As such this did not breach rule 8 because the credit reporting agency was very clear that the old name was not her current identity. It was accurate to say that she currently uses one name but previously had another.

Regarding rule 11 the Commissioner found that  agencies are allowed to disclose information to potential creditors in a variety of circumstances, including if the agency believes that the disclosure has been authorised by the individual in question and is disclosed for the purpose of making a credit decision about that person. In this case the credit reporting agency believed credit providers had the complainant’s authority to conduct credit checks and the fact she had previously used a different name was relevant to those checks.  Changing names is one means of obscuring poor credit histories.

The Commissioner rejected complainant’s allegation that:

  • the agency had identified her under her previous name. It had only informed potential creditors that she had a previous name.
  • the information was disclosed without her consent. The act of applying for credit gives the agency consent to disclose relevant information. The fact that she had previously gone by a different name was relevant.

ISSUE

While the Privacy Commissioner’s analysis is difficult to argue with it is understandable that a person undergoing a sex change operation and wishing to take on a new identity may want to avoid associations with their past.  The reason for the change of name was not to obscure/escape a history of poor credit but rather a change of life.

 

 

One Response to “New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Case note 272681 [2016] NZ PrivCmr 4:: misidentification by credit reporting agency”

  1. New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Case note 272681 [2016] NZ PrivCmr 4:: misidentification by credit reporting agency | Australian Law Blogs

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