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EQC email recipient denies leaking details

Tuesday 26 Mar 2013 9:19 a.m.

The contractor who received a document containing details about more than 80,000 EQC claimants says he isn't the one who told Labour about the privacy breach.

But he says the information contains "absolutely every bit of information that every homeowner has been trying to get out of EQC for years".

EQC said on Friday 9700 claimants' details had inadvertently been emailed to a third party, but yesterday Labour MP Lianne Dalziel revealed the document actually contained information on 98,000 claims from 83,000 claimants.

This prompted Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee to take a swing at the contractor who received the email, calling it an "utter disgrace" its contents had been made known to Labour. He has also threatened legal action.

The man who received the document, Bryan Staples of Earthquake Services, says it wasn't him.

"Gerry Brownlee had the audacity to come out and put my integrity in question. I couldn't believe it – he doesn't even know me."

Mr Staples, whose company helps EQC claimants battle the commission for payouts, says he got the email from claims process manager of repairs Susan David at 7:47am on Friday, during a meeting with his business managers.

"When I opened it, I said to the guys, 'Holy hell – look at this! Susan's jumping ship and coming over to our side of the fence!' 'Cause that's what it seemed – she was sending us this information to come and work for us, because most of my 45 staff are ex-EQC people."

Ms David is Mr Staples' main contact at EQC.

"Once I had been through the document I sent her an email back and said, 'Thanks very much for this, I'm available any time you want to meet.' Then about 10 or 15 minutes after that she rings me up, she says, 'Hey listen, you got that email by mistake. It wasn't meant for you. Will you destroy it?'

"I said, 'Yep, sure I will,' and I did."

Mr Staples says he wasn't going to go public about the document until he heard Mr Brownlee's comments on Sunday.

"Let's get this right – I did not contact Lianne Dalziel. Repeat: I did not contact Lianne Dalziel. There was five other people in this office. Only four of those are my employees. I had no control over what other people said.

"I met with an EQC fraud investigator, immediately they came out and I said I'd destroy it. They did not even ask me if there was anybody else in the room… it just typifies how useless they are."

According to Mr Staples, the document – a simple Excel spreadsheet – is comprehensive.

"Everything, every bit of information you want to know – how much they valued your damages at, the contractor's quote, whether it's got asbestos, the whole thing… I would never disclose any personal details on any claim, but what I can tell them is that if EQC are telling you they don't have the information about your property – it's a lie."

EQC: ASBESTOS INFO IS AVAILABLE

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson says the organisation would never withhold information about asbestos.

"If we know about asbestos, we test the house with the homeowner present – we'll let them know the presence of asbestos. That's not something we would withhold."

They do however keep each property's estimated repair cost secret.

"We do keep that information to ourselves because of commercial confidence to EQC," says Mr Simpson.

"All our customers have the option to opt out of our repair programme, and if they knew what our estimated costs were, it may put contractors bidding for that work at an advantage, and therefore EQC at a disadvantage."

If anyone wants to know the "scope of works for their repair", Mr Simpson says EQC would send them that.

"We try and give all the information we can to our customers."

NO DISCIPLINE FOR SENDER

Mr Simpson says Ms Davis, the woman who accidentally sent the document to Mr Staples, is "distraught", and won't be facing disciplinary action.

"After the initial mistake, she's done everything right. She notified her superior, she didn't try to hide anything, so the accountability for privacy at EQC sits with me."

He also says he believes Mr Staples has done everything right.

"I think Mr Staples, as far as I'm concerned, has done everything he should have done – I believe that he did destroy the data straight away.

"It appears that an acquaintance of his has discussed the nature of the disclosure with Lianne Dalziel, and that's led to the recent conversations."

From now on, all computers at EQC will have the 'auto-complete' function turned off for email addresses, to reduce the chances of sensitive information being emailed to the wrong person.

Prime Minister John Key says the leak was human error, but it would be "a bit harsh" to give Ms David the sack.

"I suspect she's probably mortified," he said on Firstline this morning.

There will be an independent review into the privacy breach. Mr Simpson has been summoned to the Beehive this morning to explain the breach to Mr Brownlee.

 

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