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New Zealand: Tribunal upholds complaint against failure to provide access to email correspondence

The Human Rights Review Tribunal issued, on 9 June 2021, its decision in Turner v Itchyfoot Pty Ltd [2021] NZHRRT 27 on the right to access information. In particular, the decision concerned a complaint against a company that was operating a house-sitting platform. More specifically, the complainant alleged that the company had withheld certain information, including email correspondence relating to a dispute between the complainant and a house sitter engaged through the platform. As such, the complainant claimed that the failure to provide such information constituted an interference with privacy as per Section 66 of the Privacy Act 2020.

In this regard, the Tribunal found that there had been an interference with the complainant's privacy. In doing so, the Tribunal concluded that the email correspondence between the company and the house sitter did in fact contain personal information about the complainant and is therefore subject to the right of access under Information Privacy Principle 6. Furthermore, the Tribunal held that the withholding of such information was not warranted nor justified by the exception under Section 29(1)(a) of the Privacy Act, which permits entities to refuse requests if the disclosure would involve the affairs of another individual. In its view, the Tribunal observed that the privacy interests of the house sitter were low and that, in view of natural justice, the complainant had a right to know what was said about him in order to challenge the allegations being made.

Nevertheless, the Tribunal did not award any damages in favour of the complainant, citing that the complainant had not suffered any financial loss as a result.

You can read the decision here.