Man seeks access to loan documents completed by former wife

A man made a request to his bank for copies of loan documents that had been completed by his former wife. These loans had been taken out using a house owned jointly by the man and his former wife as security, but without the man’s knowledge or agreement.

The bank had refused to provide these documents on the basis that they were not ‘personal information’ about the man.

The complaint raised an issue under principle 6 of the Privacy Act, which entitles individuals to access to personal information that is held about them. This right is subject to the withholding grounds set out in sections 27-29 of the Privacy Act.

The complaint also raised an issue in terms of the definition of ‘personal information’ under the Privacy Act. ‘Personal information’ is defined in section 2 of the Privacy Act as ‘information about an identifiable individual’.

We obtained a copy of the withheld loan documents. After reviewing these it was our view that the loan documents were personal information about both the man and his former wife, and that the man should be provided with access to them.

Our view was based on the fact that the loan documents provided information about the man’s interests and rights in the jointly owned property that was being used as security. We considered this brought the information within the scope of ‘personal information’ about him.

We also considered that there was some other personal information in the loan documents that was solely about his former wife, and that this information could be withheld from the man on the basis that it was not personal information about him.

The bank accepted our view, and released the loan documents to the man, after deleting the information that was solely about his former wife.

The release of the loan documents resolved the complaint for the man.

September 2012

Access to personal information – request for loan documents completed by former wife – definition of ‘personal information’ – Privacy Act 1993; section 2, principle 6


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