Prohibition on use of electoral rolls to locate debtors
for recovery

The relevant legislation prevents the use of Commonwealth electoral rolls to locate debtors for recovery.

The legislative framework governing the Commonwealth electoral rolls is set out in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) (“the Act”) and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). In particular, section 91A of the Act:

  1. states that only certain entities (being, a senator or member of the House of Representatives, political party, electoral authority or prescribed authority that is an agency under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth)) are permitted to ‘use’ information contained on the electoral roll (“Information”) and only for ‘permitted purposes'

  2. lists the ‘permitted purposes’ as:

    • any purpose in connection with an election or referendum;
    • research regarding electoral matters;
    • monitoring the accuracy of information contained in a roll;
    • performance by the Senator or Member of his or her functions as a Senator or Member in relation to a person or persons enrolled for the Division, State or Territory to which the tape or disk relates;
    • any other purpose that is prescribed by the authority.
  3. further provides that a person or organisation that obtains such Information, must not use it except for ‘permitted purposes'.
Section 91B of the Act prohibits the use of such Information for commercial use with penalties (up to $110 000) in the event of a breach.

Accordingly, the use of electoral roll Information for purposes other than the ‘permitted purposes’ is prohibited. Of note, the use of such information from the electoral roll including a debtor’s address for the purpose of recovery by an insurer or its agent:

  1. is prohibited as it does not fall within the ‘permitted purposes’ as allowed by section 91A of the Act; and
  2. may attract penalties of up to $110 000 in the event that it is considered to fall foul of section 91B of the Act.

Both solicitors and insurers, should be mindful of these provisions when instructing agents in ‘skip trace’ matters.