Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

EQC's police complaint 'bullying'

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

The man at the centre of the EQC privacy bungle says the email containing details of 98,000 claims is in his email account trash bin and he is seeking the legal green light to retrieve it and use it in a $700,000 claims battle with the commission.

Insurance advocate and former EQC employee Bryan Staples got the email, sent to him in error by an EQC claims manager, on Friday. He and five others looked at the email's contents, including details of 10 contested claims he was handling, before deleting it and signing a statutory declaration that he had done so.

But the commission yesterday said it had laid a complaint with Christchurch police that Mr Staples had "gone back on his word, and in the process may have broken the law".

"Bryan Staples told EQC today that he will retrieve the email and attachment after providing verbal and written assurances, and a signed statutory declaration, that he would delete them," said EQC chief Ian Simpson.

"The confidential information was released by mistake. We have apologised for that and we are determined not to add to any distress already caused by the mistake."

But Mr Staples denied going back on his word and said the EQC's police complaint was "bullying tactics". "Tell Mr Simpson to read his own [statutory declaration] document. There is nowhere in that document - and I've taken good legal advice on it - that stops me from retrieving that email."

Mr Staples said he would initiate court action next week to secure the right to use the contents of the email as he pursued $700,000 in payments from EQC for the 10 claims where his company had done repair work before EQC approved it.

Mr Staples said his company had done that repair work on behalf of 10 mostly elderly or infirm claimants because the commission had repeatedly withheld that approval for what he regarded as petty reasons.

His clients had gone through two winters in quake-damaged homes and he didn't want them to endure a third. He said there was nothing in legislation that prevented his company from doing that repair work before EQC approved it.

Mr Simpson yesterday confirmed Mr Staples sought payment for invoices linked to work "commenced without EQC's prior approval".

Mr Simpson said Mr Staples' email, which the Herald understands was sent at 3.52am on Wednesday, advised EQC that if the commission paid the contested claims "in full within the required time frame, there will be no media announcement and the matter will die a natural death".

"EQC is treating these invoices in the same way as we treat other situations where a customer chooses to do repair work themselves and then invoices EQC without first seeking EQC's approval," Mr Simpson said.

"EQC does not pay invoices on a 'no questions asked' basis."

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- NZ Herald

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