Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

EQC lays police complaint against email recipient

83,000 Canterbury households have been affected by the Earthquake Commission releasing claimant information. Photo / Geoff Sloan
83,000 Canterbury households have been affected by the Earthquake Commission releasing claimant information. Photo / Geoff Sloan

The Earthquake Commission has laid a complaint with Christchurch police that Bryan Staples, the recipient of an accidental email including private customer information, allegedly threatened to use the email to extract preferential payment of invoices.

EQC Chief Executive Ian Simpson said the action was being taken "because the recipient has 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.

"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", Mr Simpson said.

Mr Staples - an insurance advocate and former EQC employee - sent an email advising EQC that if the commission paid particular accounts "in full within the required time frame, there will be no media announcement and the matter will die a natural death".

Mr Simpson said the invoices Mr Staples was seeking payment for relate to work that he commenced without EQC's prior approval.

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

Mr Staples said he was going to apply to the District Court to retrieve the email.

He said he wanted to use the information in it to support his civil action against EQC for not paying him money he says he is owed.

It was "bullying" tactics for the commission to involve the police, he said.

"If you owe someone $700,000, you better pay him, you don't call in the police and use bully-boy tactics. Get your cheque book out and send me a cheque."

He said he had a lot of support from the community.

Mr Staples said he believed EQC was not paying homeowners the right amount to have their houses fixed and he needed the email information to prove his claim.

He said EQC had "no right" to say they needed to give approval to work before agreeing to pay for it.

He had received legal advice that there was nothing in law requiring anyone to get approval before fixing their houses.

"This is something that EQC is doing off their own back - policy on the run."

Mr Staples denied he was breaching an agreement in asking the court to give permission to retrieve the email because the requirements in the agreement had expired.

"They stuffed up, they stuffed up as they always do.

"I'm not trying to distribute information, all I'm trying to do is gather evidence of the cases we are taking to court."

If the court did not grant him permission to retrieve the email, he would ask for it under discovery, Mr Staples said.

- additional reporting Rebecca Quilliam

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 26 Nov 2014 09:50:04 Processing Time: 376ms