Publication date: 3 June 2019


The Privacy Act 1988 protects personal information that is handled by Australian Government agencies, not-for-profits and many businesses.

The Information Privacy Act 2014 (ACT) protects personal information that is handled by ACT Government agencies.

Personal information is information or an opinion that can reasonably identify someone. Examples include a name, signature, address, telephone number, date of birth, medical records or bank account details.

If you think your personal information has been mishandled by an agency or organisation covered by the Privacy Act or the Information Privacy Act, you should complain to them first.

If they do not respond within 30 days, or you are not satisfied with their response, you can complain to our office.

How do I make a complaint?

It is free to lodge a complaint, and you do not need a lawyer.

Complaints must be made in writing. You can make a complaint using the form on our website, by mail, by fax or by email to

Note As at 31 July 2023, you can only use the form on our website to make a complaint.

Your complaint should include:

  • the name of the agency or organisation involved
  • a brief description of your privacy problem
  • any action the agency or organisation has taken to fix the problem
  • copies of any relevant documents, including copies of your complaint to the agency or organisation, and its response
  • if your complaint involves credit reporting, you should include a copy of your credit file.

What happens to my complaint?

Sometimes people contact us about issues that are not covered by the Privacy Act, for example generally we can’t deal with complaints about state government agencies.

If we can’t investigate your complaint we will contact you to explain why we need to decline it. We will try to refer you to someone who can help you with the issues you have raised.

If your complaint raises an issue we can deal with we usually contact the organisation to tell them about your complaint and ask for their side of the story.

We will usually provide a copy of your complaint to the organisation you are complaining about. If we get information from that organisation or agency we will provide that to you. We will usually try to resolve your complaint through conciliation. In conciliation we help you and the organisation to resolve the issues through negotiation. Our role is to act as an impartial third party in this process. We do not act as an advocate for either party.

We aim to resolve complaints as quickly as possible. Some complaints can be resolved within a few weeks, but some take longer.

If a complaint can’t be resolved the Privacy Commissioner might make a decision on whether a breach of privacy has occurred. In these cases a formal decision is issued and the Commissioner may direct the respondent to take steps to address the breach of privacy and award compensation.

If you have any questions about the Privacy Act or how to make a complaint Our Enquiries Line can help you. You can email us at or you can call through the national relay service or TTY on 1300 363 992.

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