How we investigate and resolve your complaint

Last updated: 8 August 2019

On this page

  • We first decide if we can investigate your complaint
  • We may need to disclose your personal information or collect more of it when investigating your complaint
  • We try to get you and the organisation or agency you complained about to agree on an outcome

OAIC acts as an impartial third party when investigating and resolving a complaint. We don’t act for you or the organisation or agency you complained about.

Deciding if we can investigate your complaint

Before we decide whether to investigate your complaint we may need more information. In this situation, we may contact you, the organisation or agency you complained about or any relevant third party to collect more information about your complaint. If we think we can resolve your complaint during this process, we’ll attempt to do so.

If your complaint is about something we can’t investigate, we’ll let you know and close your complaint. You can appeal our decision.

We can’t investigate an anonymous complaint.

What we may not investigate

Generally speaking, we may not investigate your complaint if:

  • your complaint doesn’t involve your personal information
  • you haven’t first complained to the organisation or agency you think has mishandled your personal information or they haven’t had an opportunity to respond to your complaint
  • you’re complaining about something you found out about more than 12 months ago
  • the matter is best dealt with by a recognised external dispute resolution scheme or under another law, agency or organisation
  • the matter involves an organisation the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) doesn’t cover

Investigating your complaint

If we decide to investigate your complaint, we usually write to the organisation or agency you complained about. We tell them about your complaint and ask for their response. We also give them a copy of your complaint to us.

We may also disclose, if necessary, your personal information to any third party who has information relevant to your complaint. If we think we may need to disclose your personal information to an overseas organisation or agency, we’ll discuss this with you first.

We may need to collect more information from you to investigate your complaint. If you don’t give us this information, it may affect how we handle your complaint. In some situations, it may mean we decide not to investigate your complaint any further.

We usually collect information about you from the organisation or agency you complained about. We may also collect information about you from others if they have information relevant to your complaint.

If you have any questions about the information we collect about you and how we’ll handle it, please read our privacy policy or phone our Enquiries Line (1300 363 992).

Resolving your complaint

You need to tell us the outcome you want. We try to get you both you and the organisation or agency you complained about to agree on an outcome. There are many possible outcomes

We’ll let you know, in writing, of the progress of your complaint.

Generally, we discuss the issues you raised in your complaint with you and the organisation or agency you complained about. We try to get you both agree on an outcome, rather than us deciding what should happen.

If you and the organisation or agency you complained about agree on an outcome to resolve your complaint, we’ll close your complaint.

If you and the organisation or agency you complained about can’t agree on an outcome, we’ll decide what should happen.

If we think the organisation or agency you complained about has proposed a reasonable outcome but you’re not happy with it, we may close your complaint because the organisation or agency has adequately dealt with the matter, even though you don’t agree.

If we don’t think the matter has been resolved or the organisation or agency you complained about hasn’t adequately dealt with the matter, we will make a formal decision, called a determination, which states what the organisation or agency must do.

You can choose to withdraw your complaint at any time without penalty.

Possible outcomes

A possible outcome for a complaint may be:

  • taking steps to address the matter (such as being given access to personal information or having a record corrected)
  • an apology
  • a change to the practices or procedures of the organisation or agency you complained about 
  • training staff 
  • compensation for financial or non-financial loss
  • other non-financial options (such as a complimentary subscription to a service)

In some situations, we may also accept an undertaking from the organisation or agency you complained about to do, or stop doing, a specific thing so they don’t breach the Privacy Act. If they fail to meet the undertaking, we can ask a court to enforce it.

Where a breach of privacy is very serious, we may seek a civil penalty. A civil penalty is like a fine and is not paid to you.

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