Whanganui man outraged Vodafone employee gave out mobile number to person who asked for it

The man claims a person known to him asked for his number at Vodafone Whanganui (L) and an employee willingly provided it.
The man claims a person known to him asked for his number at Vodafone Whanganui (L) and an employee willingly provided it. Photo credit: Google Maps / Getty

A Whanganui man is seeking financial compensation for distress caused to him and his family after a Vodafone employee gave out his private information.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims a person known to him went to the Vodafone store in Whanganui and asked a staff member for his new mobile number. The employee obliged and handed out the man's contact information, a direct breach of his privacy rights.

Speaking to Newshub, the man said the person who requested his number was forthright about how they obtained his contact information.

In screenshots provided to Newshub, a text from the individual dated May 22 reads: "Hi, [name] here, hope you don't mind, Vodafone gave me your new number as they seriously don't know what they're doing."

"You have got to be kidding me, this is becoming a joke," the man responded. "I'm interested who at Vodafone gave my number out [sic]."

The man did not wish to comment on his relationship with the person, but acknowledged there had been a previous incident between the two.

After complaining to Vodafone, a regional manager contacted the man and offered him a voucher for one of Vodafone's flagship handsets - an iPhone 11 Max, Samsung s20 or the Oppo Find X2 - or a payment to the value of the most expensive of the three ($2150) as compensation for the privacy breach.

But the man says he's not interested in a new phone, and is instead seeking $10,000 for the distress the incident has caused to him and his family. 

"They've broken the law. I want $10,000 in compensation or I will take them to court," he told Newshub. "They are offering me a new phone as compensation to shut up.

"It's just the whole principle of it, we trust these companies with our personal details."

Vodafone Whanganui.
Vodafone Whanganui. Photo credit: Google Maps

Vodafone's senior communications lead said the employee has been disciplined accordingly and protocols are being re-communicated to all staff.

"We take these matters incredibly seriously. As soon as the complaint was made, we started a formal process and an active investigation is currently underway," she said in a statement.

"The store employee has recognised he made a mistake in giving out the phone number and has been disciplined for this. 

"We are re-educating our retail teams about the importance of protecting our customer's privacy, reminding them about our policies and processes."

Vodafone Whanganui and the managers involved with the man's case did not wish to comment.

According to Principle 5 of the Privacy Act 1993's information privacy principles, any private or public agency that holds personal information must ensure the information is protected against loss, access, misuse or unauthorised disclosure. Under Principle 11, "an agency that holds personal information shall not disclose the information to a person or body or agency".

The Privacy Act controls how agencies collect, use, disclose, store and give access to personal information. The Act applies to almost every person, business or organisation in New Zealand, including Government agencies and local councils. 

According to Consumer NZ, as the Privacy Act is a principle-based system, it is not enforceable in court. An aggrieved individual must make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner alleging an "interference with privacy". The Commissioner has no powers to fine or prosecute anyone or order an organisation to pay compensation.