A man said he lost his job and struggled to obtain housing after a debt management company wrongly associated his name with another person's debts.
The man's two-year struggle to have the mistake corrected is described in a recent decision from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.
Neither the man nor company are named in the decision.
The man learned of the error in 2018 when a utility company declined to service his property because of debt against his name.
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The decision said during that two years he lost his job, struggled to obtain housing, was chased for debts that weren't his, was unable to access loans and experienced mental health issues resulting from the stress the situation had caused.
He "repeatedly contacted" the debt company, proving the error by showing he had a different middle name and saying he'd never lived at the address the company associated with him.
After no luck with the company, he then took the matter to the Privacy Commissioner, who said his complaint raised issues under principle 8 of the Privacy Act, which states an organisation must check before using personal information that it is accurate, complete, relevant, up to date and not misleading.
During the investigation, the man provided proof of the harm caused by the mistake, including records from medical specialists and letters showing he had been declined access to service and credit.
The debt company admitted its mistake, withdrew the credit defaults on his file and gave the man a "substantial confidential settlement".
"This case is a reminder of how important it is for organisations to keep accurate records about their customers or clients," the decision said.
"It also highlighted why organisations should have robust processes for investigating and actioning complaints."