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NZ Privacy Commissioner Cautions Disputed Accounts

Friday, July 24, 2015 - Posted by Philip Harvey

In New Zealand, the Privacy Commissioner has cautioned companies against referring debts to collection agencies whilst they are under dispute.

In the matter Taylor v Orcon Ltd [2015] NZHRRT 15, a telecommunications company, Orcon, advised a customer that all amount owing had been waived. The amounts waived related to unsuccessfully attempting to connect Orcon's broadband service, with the modem supplied and connection never working, with no access to the internet ever established.

Subsequent to waiving all fees and charges, an invoice was received from Orcon which was immediately disputed. Further account statements were received and to compound matters the customer was laughed at when requesting to talk to a manager.

To compound the matter, Orcon then referred the account to a debt collection agency for collection, which was again disputed by the customer. Whilst initially placed under HOLD, the matter was taken off hold with a partial credit, and the balance listed on the customers credit report.

This adverse credit listing then prevented the customer from obtaining rental accommodation forcing the customer to pay Orcon to have the listing removed, with Orcon subsequently refunding the customer this amount. The adverse credit listing also impacted on his finance facility with GE Money.

Having regard to all the circumstances, an order to pay the customer NZ$10,000 for the impact on his credit rating and NZ$15,000 for the humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings was made.

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