Archive for July, 2009
Yesterday I received NZ Posts infamous survey in the post and was staggered at the depth of questions it was asking. I still have not decided on the most appropriate form of response to NZ Post using said survey. In the meantime, I have raised a number of issues to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Simon Power, about what I believe is a very inappropriate survey being undertaken by an agency of the Crown. The Privacy Commissioner also recently released a media statement on the survey. I see ConsumerNZ has also come out against the survey.
To: The Honourable Simon Power, Minister for State Owned Enterprises (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copied: Commerce Commission (email@example.com), Office of the Privacy Commissioner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As the Minister for State Owned Enterprises, I wish to register with you my distaste at the current business tactics of New Zealand Post. The New Zealand Post survey, whilst not illegal from a privacy perspective, is highly inappropriate for an agency of the Crown. State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) should not be collecting any more information than is required to undertake their business with citizens of New Zealand.
I wish to raise the following issues for you to consider and take action to resolve:
1. NZ Post is using trust as a competitive advantage
NZ Post is promoting itself as a ‘trusted’ organisation that places itself at a competitive advantage over other businesses that may be attempting to collect the private information of New Zealand citizens. E.g.
“We are a trusted New Zealand organisation who touches thousands of New Zealanders every day. To protect the privacy and confidentiality of your personal information we always ensure that our policy and processes comply with the following…”
Yet at the top of the same page…
“By undertaking the New Zealand Post Survey, you and your partner’s name and contact details may be provided to organisations from New Zealand and overseas…”
How can we trust NZ Post if they have openly stated that they will provide information to organisations overseas? Surely that is a breach of trust in an agency of the Crown?
I believe it is highly inappropriate for NZ Post to be using its privileged SOE position to be undertaking such an invasive survey. Many Kiwi’s may implicitly trust NZ Post more than any other commercial entity undertaking the collection of personal information for marketing purposes – and this may result in a higher number of survey returns. Kiwi’s should have the expectation that agencies of the Crown will not undertake such activities and only focus on their core business.
2. NZ Post is leveraging their delivery network in an anti-competitive manner
Any of NZ Posts competitors that want to undertake the same survey – would have to pay for postage and delivery using NZ Post’s network. My understanding is that only NZ Post has the reach for mail delivery to undertake a survey of this extent. I am assuming that NZ Post is undertaking this survey at cost or cheaper, effectively leveraging their existing mail delivery infrastructure. This may place NZ Post in the position of being the only NZ organisation that could actually afford to undertake such an endeavour. I believe this is anti-competitive as NZ Post is making use of an effective postal monopoly to undertake this survey, greatly reducing the costs they would have to pay when compared to other New Zealand businesses – a number of which exist in the Direct Marketing industry, and would no doubt love to enjoy the advantages that such a rich database of private information about Kiwi’s would provide for direct marketing purposes.
In light of these issues, I believe that as Minister for State Owned Enterprises, you should direct NZ Post to stop collecting private information for the sole purpose of direct marketing. In addition, all information that has already been collected should be destroyed.
This is not an activity that State Owned Enterprises should be using their privileged, trusted and often monopolistic positions to be undertaking. It gives them an unfair competitive advantages over other New Zealand businesses that operate in this and related areas (to be clear – none of which I have interests in).
I look forward to a timely response in this matter.