Case note: FOI access to credit licence application

In Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Australian Securities and Investments Commission [2017] AICmr 111 Maurice Blackburn unsuccessfully applied for a review of ASIC’s refusal to provide Freedom of Information Act access to documents relating to Australian Credit Licences held by two Cash Converters entities being sued by Maurice Blackburn’s clients.

Cash Converters argued that disclosure of the documents would found an action for breach of confidence by it against ASIC, and would involve an unreasonable disclosure of personal information and adversely affect their business affairs.

ASIC accepted the exemption claim but Maurice Blackburn argued they were entitled to a copy of one document titled ‘Assessment Procedure’, relating to Cash Converters Personal Finance Pty Ltd and material in one document titled ‘Assessment Procedure’ relating to Safrock Finance Corporation (Qld) Pty Ltd.

The Information Commissioner concluded that the material was exempt from FOI as it was obtained in confidence by ASIC.

The Commissioner stated:

“The material was provided by the affected third parties to ASIC as part of their application for ACLs. They contain the affected third parties’ internal procedures and policies for assessing personal loan applications.

I accept ASIC’s submissions that management of information provided to ASIC for ACL applications are subject to RG204, which provides that information provided to ASIC is encrypted and not available to the public. I agree with ASIC that the material is commercially sensitive information about how the affected third parties conduct their businesses, and disclosure is not agreed to by the affected third parties.

There is nothing before me that would indicate that the material has been broadly disclosed.

For these reasons, I am satisfied that the information was provided on a mutual understanding of confidence.

I accept the affected third parties’ submissions that disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to cause them financial detriment.

For these reasons, I am satisfied that the documents provided by the affected third parties to ASIC in support of their ACL applications were obtained in confidence and disclosure would found an action for breach of confidence.

The material is exempt under s 45 of the FOI Act.”

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