This Statement describes how Consumer Action will collect and use your private and confidential information. Protecting your privacy and personal information is an important part of how we manage our services including the National Debt Helpline, our legal advice and representation services and our policy and campaign work.
Consumer Action has obligations, and you have rights, under Commonwealth and Victorian privacy law. Privacy laws apply when we collect, use, disclose and dispose of your personal information. Personal information includes information that identifies you or could identify you, for example, your name, address or phone number, or identifying details from your financial or legal matter.
As a legal and financial counselling practice we also have legal and ethical obligations in relation to confidentiality. Lawyers and financial counsellors must not disclose any client information that has come to them in their professional capacity and in the legitimate course of their professional employment except with your consent or in very narrow circumstances defined by law. Because a client’s instructions are given to the legal practice and not just the individual lawyer or financial counsellor, the duty is binding on all staff and volunteers at Consumer Action.
We collect personal information both directly from you, by telephone, email, online or face to face, and from third parties in the course of providing advice or casework. With your informed consent we may collect sensitive information including about your financial affairs.
Our websites do not collect or record personal information, other than information you choose to provide, for example, through our enquiries and email fields. Email addresses and any other contact details you provide to us will not be added to a mailing list without your consent.
We will generally only use personal information about you, or disclose it to third parties, for the purposes of providing you with advice, counselling or representation, or, if you agree, referring you to other organisations.
We will sometimes use case studies based on the experience of our clients to explain what our service does, or to convince the government or other relevant organisations that laws and/or industry practices need to change to improve consumer protection. Any case study relating to your matter will not identify you or your particular matter unless we have obtained consent from you. If you tell us that you do not want your personal information to be used for a particular purpose, we will agree to that request
We are required to provide some information to funding agencies, whose use of it is governed by their own privacy policies, and these include procedures to ensure that small cohort reporting does not identify individuals. We do not provide funding agencies identifying information such as your name or address.
We may use information you have provided us to evaluate the effectiveness of our service. This includes file review and risk management purposes, including review by other community legal centres. We may also seek your consent for us or a third party to contact you to participate in research or other evaluation activities. You do not need to give your consent to this and we will provide you with the same services whether or not you provide such consent.
We may also use or disclose personal information to third parties if required to do so by law; in emergencies where life, health or safety of any person is at risk.
All of the personal information we hold is hosted on servers located in Australia, but in the course of the provision of some internet services including web-analytics, some information may be held or processed outside Australia, most likely including Singapore and the USA. Otherwise, we will not disclose personal information to overseas recipients other than at your express request.
We take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is accurate, complete, up to date and relevant, and generally ‘fit for purpose’. You can assist us by notifying us promptly of any changes or relevant new information. You have the right under privacy law to see any personal information that Consumer Action holds about you, and to seek correction if you believe it is wrong. However, for legal professional reasons, including checking conflicts of interest and insurance requirements, we will not be able to delete your name and contact details from our legal and financial counselling service database (see, also, ‘Keeping your information’ below).
We will take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information held by Consumer Action is protected from misuse, loss and from unauthorised access, modification and disclosure. You should however be aware that there are risks involved in transmitting personal information over the internet or by email.
Please tell us if you have any privacy or safety concerns about us leaving a message for you, especially if our message mentions Consumer Action, National Debt Helpline (our financial counselling service), or your legal or financial problem. In particular, please tell us if you have any concerns about us leaving that type of message:
- as a voice message on your land-line or mobile phone;
- by text to your mobile phone;
- with someone who answers your phone; or
- by email.
This might be a risk for you, for example, if you have a gambling problem or financial difficulty that you do not want other household members to know about, or if you are experiencing family violence, or because your messages are not secure.
We will take reasonable steps to de-identify or destroy personal information once it is no longer needed. In practice, personal information contained in our hard copy files is kept for at least 65 days before we destroy it, unless you ask us to keep it. Personal information kept in our electronic files will be kept for at least seven years after we close your file, and may be kept for longer. We will return any of your original documents in our possession when your matter is finalised.
If you have any concerns about our use of your information, please discuss these with us. We will always try to resolve them with you. You can contact us, make a complaint, or seek more details about this site or our privacy policies by:
- Phoning (03) 9670 5088; or
- Emailing via online feedback form
- Writing to:
Consumer Action Law Centre
Level 6, 179 Queen Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3000
You have the right to complain about alleged breaches of privacy to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) See www.oaic.gov.au or call 1300 363 992.