Australia: Australia's new privacy laws take effect: the OAIC releases draft privacy regulatory action policy

Last Updated: 26 March 2014
Article by Cate Sendall

On 12 March 2014, significant changes to the Privacy Act 1988 took effect. The changes included the introduction of a set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), which set out the standards, rights and obligations in relation to the collecting, handling, holding, access and correction of personal information. The APPs apply to all Australian businesses with an annual turnover of more than $3million and all Australian Government agencies.

Along with the introduction of the APPs, the Privacy Commissioner now has strong enforcement powers and is able to seek penalties of up to $340,000 for individuals or $1.7 million for companies.

Given the Privacy Commissioner's new powers, it is unsurprising that the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has been busy, recently announcing its enforcement approach to the new privacy laws1 and releasing its draft March 2014 "Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's privacy regulatory action policy" (Regulatory Policy).2

What will be the OAIC's compliance focus?

In the coming months, the OAIC's compliance focus will involve working with agencies and companies to ensure that they have put in place systems and procedures to comply with the APPs and that they are aware of and understand the new requirements. Should any complaint be made to the OAIC, in resolving the matter the OAIC will consider what steps the agency or business has taken to comply genuinely with the new requirements.

In enforcing the new laws, the OAIC will utilise an escalation model as follows:

  • Individuals should first attempt to resolve privacy issues directly with the business;
  • If the business is a member of a recognised dispute resolution scheme, such as the Credit Ombudsman Service Ltd, the individual should access the scheme before contacting the OAIC; and
  • If the matter remains unresolved, the individual complains to the OAIC and the OAIC considers the dispute falls within its area of regulation, the OAIC will attempt to resolve the matter by conciliation.

However, if conciliation is not effective, the OAIC may use other methods at its disposal including determinations and enforceable undertakings. Where privacy breaches are serious or repeated, the OAIC may commence legal proceedings to seek penalties.

What action will be taken?

When deciding whether to exercise a regulatory power, the draft Regulatory Policy states that the OAIC is required to prioritise matters taking into account the following matters (among others):

  • is the relevant conduct consistent with the Privacy Act's objects? (These include the protection of the privacy of individuals; to promote transparent and responsible personal information handling processes; achieving a balance between the protection of an individual's privacy and a business' interest in carrying out its activities; and providing a mechanism for individuals to complain.3)
  • How serious is the matter, for example, how many people are affected, what adverse consequences occur, was the conduct reckless or intentional and, as a result, should the OAIC take urgent action, taking into account the level of seniority of the person(s) responsible?
  • Will action by the OAIC have a deterrent effect or be of educative value?
  • Has the organisation previously been the subject of prior OAIC compliance or enforcement action?
  • Is it likely that the organisation will breach the Act in the future?
  • Has the organisation recently changed its information handling practices?
  • Is the conduct unconscionable?
  • Is the matter of substantial public concern or interest?
  • Has the organisation co-operated with the OAIC?
  • What is the cost of enforcement action and how long will enforcement action take?
  • Will the legal proceedings provide greater clarity of the law?
  • Is there enough admissible evidence?
  • Is the conduct becoming more widespread?
  • Is intervention required for the conduct to cease?

The closing date for comments on the draft Regulatory Policy is Friday 28 March 2014. Comments may be submitted by email: or by post: GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001. If you would like further information, please contact us.

So what does this mean for your company?

This OAIC announcement and the release of the draft Regulatory Policy serve as a warning to those companies that have not already taken genuine and reasonable steps, in the circumstances, to comply with the new obligations set out in the APPs.

We have previously written about the various steps companies are required to take to comply with the new requirements.4

When reflecting on whether you have taken genuine and reasonable steps, you should consider the following questions:

  • Have you conducted a thorough privacy audit so that you understand what processes and procedures must change and be updated?
  • Have you ensured all staff members handling personal information received adequate privacy training and are they aware of your privacy practices and internal policies?
  • Has an employee (or team) been designated as the "Privacy Officer" to deal with privacy-related queries, complaints and compliance issues?
  • Have you considered setting up an email address for privacy queries, for example, to ensure that privacy related correspondence is not lost and will be dealt with promptly and appropriately?
  • Have agreements with third parties suppliers, contractors and agents been reviewed to ensure that you meet your privacy obligations, for example, by the inclusion of warranties, indemnities and appropriate resolution procedures and remedies?
  • Have your privacy policy and privacy collection notices been amended? In particular:
    • Are individuals provided with collection notices, at or about the time that they provide your business with personal information, which adequately address the matters required in the APPs?
    • If your business discloses personal information to overseas recipients, are the overseas recipients aware of specific APP obligations relevant to their handling of the information? Have you obtained legal advice about the potential liability for your business? The overseas disclosure will also likely need to be disclosed in your privacy policy.
  • if your business collects sensitive information (such as health information) is your business aware of the specific obligations which apply in respect of such information?
  • if your business provides credit for goods and/or services on deferred payment terms, does your business satisfy requirements in the Privacy Act and Credit Report Privacy Code concerning policies about credit information, statements of notifiable matters and collection notices?
  • Have you implemented a privacy complaints handling system to ensure that privacy queries and complaints are addressed in a timely fashion and escalated, if required?
  • Have you put in place processes and procedures to handle and manage personal information to ensure ongoing compliance with privacy obligations?

Message: Taking each of these steps sends a strong message that you take your privacy obligations seriously and reduces the risk of non-compliance.


1OAIC Media Release: The OAIC's enforcement approach to new privacy laws from 12 March 2014 – Statement from the Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner,

3Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), s.2A.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Cate Sendall
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.