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Responding to privacy complaints

Key Points

The focus of our complaint process is on conciliating complaints about possible breaches of the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs).

It is not our role to investigate complaints or decide if your agency has breached the IPPs.

If a complaint cannot be resolved, complainants may take their complaint to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Our complaint process provides an opportunity to resolve privacy complaints by agreement.

Resolving complaints before they escalate to OVIC

If the complainant has not already done so, we will generally refer them to the Privacy Officer of the respondent organisation to try and resolve the complaint. This gives organisations an opportunity to resolve complaints quickly and efficiently, before they have a chance to escalate.

In general, complaints get harder to manage the longer they stay open. This can be because complainants become frustrated with delays, their expectations of a significant outcome increase, or they can start to raise new issues. Conversely, well-handled complaints offer real benefits – each complaint is an opportunity to build or restore public trust and improve services and outcomes for individuals.

Because of this, it is important that organisations have effective internal complaint handling procedures and respond promptly to complaints. The Victorian Ombudsman has produced a Good Practice Guide to Complaint Handling for Victorian Public Sector Agencies, which outlines the guiding principles and practical steps involved in the three key stages of good complaint handling.

Working with OVIC to resolve complaints

Our complaint process provides an opportunity to resolve privacy complaints by agreement. In order to get the most out of our dispute resolution process, we encourage organisations to:

  • Try to see the dispute from the complainant’s point of view. Consider how they have they been affected, and what aspects of the dispute are likely to be the most important to them.
  • Try to avoid an overly legalistic approach. Complaints are more often resolved through genuine engagement and empathy, rather than detailed technical arguments.
  • Talk to us openly about your assessment of the complaint.
  • Focus on solutions, but be clear and open about what can’t be done.
  • Be willing to admit fault or apologise (where appropriate).
  • Think creatively about what might be done to resolve the complaint, and be open to novel options, even where these may not be ‘standard practice’ for your organisation.

For more information, see our detailed Guide for respondents – privacy complaints at OVIC.

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