A couple claimed a vehicle repair service damaged their car engine and were then denied information about what happened to the car while it was at the service centre. The couple said information about the car was personal information and they should have access to it. They made a complaint to our office.
In the complaint, the couple said they had requested all the information the repair service had about them and the car – memos, diary notes, telephone calls, records of calls and any other documentation.
The couple said the repair service refused to cooperate, and was hostile in its response to the access request. Without the information, they were unable to find out what the repair service’s mechanics did to the car which made the engine “undriveable”. The couple intended to take legal action against the repair service and in order to do so, they needed the information requested.
The case raised issues under principle 6 of the Privacy Act which gives people the right to access information about themselves. In investigating the case, we discovered the car was a company car registered to the couple’s company of which they are both directors.
The Privacy Act does not deal with company information. It deals only with information about an identifiable individual. This meant it was likely that most of the information that the repair service held on the car was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Privacy Act. For example, one email from the couple referred to an electronic engine scan. We did not consider this to be personal information.
The repair service advised our investigator the dispute with the couple was the subject of an upcoming Disputes Tribunal hearing. Disputes Tribunals hear disputes over faulty goods or workmanship, pricing, fencing of boundaries, car accidents, and loss or damage to other property.
We concluded the couple had an adequate alternate remedy through a Disputes Tribunal hearing to obtain the information they sought. This would include information about the car, which was not covered under the Privacy Act.
While the case raised issues under principle 6, we decided further exploration of the case was not appropriate because it was a company car. Under these circumstances, we closed the file.
Access request ‒ identifiable individual ‒ alternate remedy ‒ Disputes Tribunal ‒ company car ‒ inappropriate to investigate further ‒ Privacy Act 1993; principle 6