Second ACC waiver form unlawful, lawyer says

By Martin Johnston

Dr Denise Powell.
Dr Denise Powell.

The privacy waiver form used by ACC for 1.7 million claims a year is unlawful, a lawyer says.

Attention has focused, since the District Court issued two landmark decisions last week, on a waiver form imposed on 3 per cent of Accident Compensation Corporation claimants. Judge Grant Powell ruled that the agency's actions were "wrong in law" by stopping the entitlements of two claimants because they refused to sign the ACC167 form unconditionally.

But now Denise Powell of the Acclaim Otago group and lawyer Peter Sara have highlighted the similarity of the ACC45 form's wording to the 167.

The 45 form asks claimants to authorise "the collection and disclosure of any information about me to the extent necessary to determine cover and/or assess my entitlement to compensation".

"I think the wording on ACC45, in the respect that it goes beyond what's required, is also unlawful," said Mr Sara.

But ACC disputes this.

"The judge did not find the 167 form to be unlawful. Nor did he reference any other ACC consent forms," a corporation spokeswoman said.

Asked if ACC was rewriting ACC45 as well as 167, she said, "We are taking the opportunity to revisit all ACC's consent forms."

The new 167 was expected to start being used next week.

ACC45 is the initial claim form used for all kinds of injuries. Patients are typically asked to complete one when they go to a medical centre for first treatment of an injury. ACC handles about 1.7 million claims a year.

Dr Powell was one of two claimants in last week's verdicts. They had sought to narrow the scope of their consent but eventually signed ACC167 forms unconditionally after the corporation suspended their compensation entitlements because of non-compliance.

Judge Powell urged ACC to bring the form into line with the narrower statutory obligation for claimants to authorise obtaining "medical and other records that are or may be relevant to the claim".

He suggested that if ACC wanted to retain its wider information gathering process, then it should confine the threat of disentitlement to defiance of the statutory obligation.

Dr Powell said the ACC45 form was even more wide-ranging than ACC167 in the kinds of information that could be obtained.

She said the two forms had been used to gather information such as a claimant's bank records, Child Youth and Family Service files, employment records and Trade Me records.

She acknowledged it might be legitimate for ACC to seek such information, such as in a fraud investigation, but said relying on ACC167 was wrong.

"There is a process to be gone through. If they want bank records that should involve a search warrant. There has to be a prima facie case and ACC would have to justify their position."

- NZ Herald

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