An investigation by the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner has found that a property management company and collection agency contravened the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) by maintaining inaccurate debt information about a former tenant.
The Complainant alleged that after she moved out of a rental apartment managed by Midwest Property Management, she received a notice from collection agency Able, Apton, Morris & Stagg. She disputed that any money was owed by her and settled the issue with Midwest.
Midwest confirmed that the charges assessed would be waived and that Able Apton would be directed to close the account. The next year, the Complainant received another collection notice and telephone calls on behalf of Midwest, this time from Nor-Don Collection Network Inc. She approached both Nor-Don and Midwest and the error was addressed. She received apology letters from both organizations. Finally, in a third incident in 2006, the error was repeated by Complete Collection Centers.
The Investigator found that the Complainant’s right to information privacy was not adequately respected in this case. Inaccurate information about the Complainant was used, without consent or reasonable purpose, and could have affected her credit profile in a serious way.
Organizations must demonstrate care and attention in ensuring that individuals’ personal information is not collected, used or disclosed unnecessarily, and that the exchange of personal information is kept to the minimum required.
The investigator found that Midwest Property Management failed to establish how each of its successive collection agencies would maintain and then return files. Able Apton was found to be in contravention of PIPA by producing inaccurate information. Midwest also breached the Act by facilitating its contractors’ use of inaccurate personal information without a reasonable purpose and without consent.
The investigator recommended that:
- Midwest establish contractually with its agents how files will be managed and updated and specify the custody of particular data or files.
- Midwest develop and follow a records retention policy for all personal information in its custody.
- Able Apton develop internal guidelines surrounding how reports will be produced for clients to ensure the most accurate information is provided.
- Able Apton develop file maintenance agreements with its clients.
The organizations agreed to this course of action and the matter was resolved.