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I was recently declined finance for a new car. It turned out to be a clerical error when they were processing the application, however, when the salesman called me to advise the finance was declined, my first questions was, naturally, why was it declined?

The answer…?

“Unfortunately, due to Data Protection I’m unable to provide you with the reason why.”

If you’ve ever heard this from a company, I’m sure you’ll understand how extremely frustrating it is to hear. Moreover, in this case it is 100% wrong.

The Data Protection Act (for the UK) was created to protect CUSTOMERS from their data being misused or poorly managed by COMPANIES. Not the other way around.

In fact, there is a provision in the Act that states an individual can make a Subject Access Request (the unfortunate acronym of SARs) that legally forces a company to provide a copy of the information held about that individual.

There are times when a company can’t provide information. In most cases, this is because you are not the person you are asking information about. For example, if I call up the bank and ask about my wife’s account, they will absolutely tell me that Data Protection prevents them from sharing information with me. And they are right (unless they hold an appropriate authorisation from my wife giving me permission).

That can be frustrating too, but the bank doesn’t know if my wife and I are happily married or going through a messy divorce (it’s the former, thankfully), so it’s right they protect her privacy.

Back to my finance application – to convince them that a mistake had been made I had to provide detailed personal financial records and only then did they go back and take another look at the application.

If the company had simply told me the reason the application had been declined, a lot of extra work on both sides could have been avoided.

I’m curious when I hear that companies are hiding behind the Data Protection Act – is this a case of genuine misunderstanding about the Act, or simply a convenient way to shut down a conversation with a potential customer?

Why do companies put unnecessary barriers in place when dealing with customers?

Back to my example – what is the harm in telling me why a finance application was denied? How is this policy helpful to anyone?

Does your workplace have policies that prevent you from doing business with a customer?

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