A man who was named and shamed on Facebook by a business after his cheque bounced has lost a privacy complaint and bid for $50,000 compensation.

The business posted the man's personal details online after a cheque for goods worth hundreds of dollars bounced and the man failed to answer or return phone calls, a blog post by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

The information published online included the man's driver licence, a bounced cheque and a security camera photo, senior communications adviser Charles Mabbett said, in a Facebook post which gained more than 17,000 likes.

The business said it wanted to warn other businesses of the man's non-payment, especially after a Google search indicated the man was "well-known in his area for his scams", the Mabbett said.

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"When the man discovered what the business had done, he complained to our office," he said.

"He described his devastation at being publicly shamed on the business' Facebook page."

"He lived in a small community and ... as a result, he and his family had to endure abuse from others in the community.

"He said his anxiety and depression were triggered because of the Facebook post and online comments and he wanted more than $50,000 in compensation."

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner chose to investigate the case and contacted the business to get its response.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner's advice is if you believe you have evidence that a crime has been committed, contact Police.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner's advice is if you believe you have evidence that a crime has been committed, contact Police.

The business claimed the man had arrived and purchased several hundred dollars' worth of goods, but did not have the cash to pay for them, Mabbett said.

"He offered to pay by cheque and refused to leave without the products because he had driven for four hours from his home to obtain them.

"The business owner said the man told him to make a copy of his driver licence and gave his permission to report him to police if his cheque was dishonoured.

"They came to an agreement that the man could take half the goods with him. The business would send him the remaining goods after the cheque cleared."

Subsequently the man's cheque bounced and the business was unable to contact him on the phone number supplied.

"The owner wanted other retailers to be aware of the man's actions and he posted the man's personal details on the Facebook page."

Within an hour "his business was receiving messages and phone calls sharing similar stories about the man's past behaviour", Mabbett said.

The business was contacted later that day by the man's son who requested the post be taken down.

"The owner said he would delete the post and withdraw his police report if the outstanding sum was paid.

"After about four hours, even though no payment was received, the owner took down the post.

"He received a phone call from the man saying he would make an online payment if the business posted an apology. The business owner complied with the apology but no payment arrived."

The Privacy Commission said the business did not have the right to publish the man's personal details as it was not a public sector law enforcement agency and the man's actions did not constitute a serious threat.

However, it chose not to take any action as it said the man did not act in good faith during the investigation.

"He did not pay for the goods he had taken, nor did he return the goods he took," Mabbett said.

"He also failed to provide us with sufficient evidence for us to be able to assess whether or not he had experienced harm as a result of the Facebook post, despite wanting over $50,000 compensation."

Acting in good faith was an important part of participating in the complaints process, he said.

"It was our view the man fell short of engaging with our office in an open, honest and transparent way and we concluded the complaint by closing the file."

Naming and shaming alleged scammers or shoplifters has become a common trend on social media, but Mabbett said it was a "risky path to go down" and advised people to contact the police if they believe a crime or scam has been committed.