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Transparency Report 2014
Trade Me Transparency Reports detail the number of enquiries we get from government agencies and policeBy Trust and Safety 5 August 2014
Like many New Zealand-based companies, we receive enquiries from NZ Government agencies to assist them with their responsibilities to maintain the law.
This report details areas where we provide information to Government agencies to comply with the law and keep our website trusted and safe. It details the number of enquiries we received from government agencies between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014.
This is the second year we have produced a transparency report. Our inaugural 2013 report is here.
As a safe and trusted part of the NZ ecommerce ecosystem, we are strongly motivated – and compelled – to protect our members' privacy. We take great care to protect our members' private personal information.
"We release personal information only when we believe release is appropriate for legal compliance and law enforcement (including to government agencies with statutory law enforcement responsibilities); to facilitate court proceedings; enforce or apply our terms and conditions; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Trade Me, our users, or others. Government agencies with statutory roles enabling them to request data from us include but are not restricted the Police, Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment."
When government agencies contact us with an enquiry, we question whether the information is required for their stated purpose. Where appropriate, we push back strongly to ensure that information releases are sharply focussed and as proportionate as possible.
Summary of enquiries
New Zealand Police enquiries
We have a strong working relationship with the NZ Police and we believe we are the only private sector organisation in New Zealand to have a formal Letter of Agreement with them.
This relationship helps us to maintain the integrity of our site and helps Police keep the community safe. Often Police enquiries relate to suspected stolen goods.
We are keen to ensure our site is not used to dispose of stolen items. It is reassuring that the majority of Police enquiries on stolen goods reveal the goods are not stolen, but are cases of mistaken identification (stolen goods enquiries reduced 6 per cent this year).
We also work with NZ Police to help prosecute people who try to defraud our members, and to assist people that may be at risk. While our primary motivation is to obtain redress for our members, we are also keen to ensure perpetrators who prey on our members feel the full force of the law.
This year we received 1663 enquires from the NZ Police, up 5 per cent on last year. This graph shows the subject-matter of those enquiries.
Police enquiries by type
Government agency enquiries
We liaise with more than 25 government agencies across a variety of areas.
Often the contact is from an agency keen to discuss a compliance issue with a Trade Me member. These may involve a product safety concern, a biosecurity risk (e.g. members selling pest plants) or information to assist with a prosecution under the Fair Trading Act.
Enquiries may be for member information, the provision of advice that a listing should be taken down from the site, or to request that we pass on information to the member.
Trade Me also receives enquiries where an agency uses compulsion powers under legislation or where it can be sufficiently demonstrated that information should be released under the Privacy Act for the purpose of maintaining the law.
Where enquiries are too broad, Trade Me declines to release information and/or requires the agency to refine their enquiry.
Enquiries from government agencies are down 24 per cent year on year.
- Notable decreases were observed from Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (-33%), Ministry of Social Development (-52%) and the Commerce Commission (-40%).
- Ministry for Primary Industries and Inland Revenue increased their enquiries by 27% and 33% respectively.
- Other agencies had large percentage increases but these were off a low base of contact last year.
During the reporting period, Inland Revenue made a sizable enquiry under the compulsion powers in the Tax Administration Act. Following a series of discussions with Trade Me, Inland Revenue agreed to significantly revise and reduce the scope of the initial enquiry. Under its revised compulsion notice, information about 44,368 members was provided.
2014 enquiries breakdown across government agencies
2014 Government enquiries compared to 2013
Disputes Tribunal claims
Trade Me works on the basis that people who have never met send money to each other, for goods they have never seen. While the large majority of the 300,000 trades on Trade Me each week go through without a hitch, disputes can sometimes occur.
Where members are unable to resolve disputes themselves and Trade Me cannot help with a resolution, the Disputes Tribunal is often the best avenue for redress.
A member cannot obtain another member’s contact details to apply for a Disputes Tribunal hearing without providing a statutory declaration to Trade Me, signed by a Court Registrar. This step is in place to help ensure the information is genuinely being obtained for the purposes of the hearing and nothing else. It also provides a paper trail of the process.
In the past year, we have released information to members for the purposes of taking a Disputes Tribunal claim 478 times, an increase of 7 per cent on last year.
What is meant by ‘enquiry’?
Enquiries cover a range of interactions including:
- an information request where an agency has sought information about a membership (e.g. contact information or sales data);
- information that a listing may be in breach of the law (or our terms and conditions);
- highlighting an issue with a member which is then taken care of by Trade Me;
- a request to pass on a message directly to members
On what basis is information released?
Many government agencies have legislative authority to request or mandate information from private sector companies. We release information only when we believe its release is appropriate to comply with law for legal compliance or law enforcement purposes and as permitted by Principle 11 of the Privacy Act 1993 or we are required to do so by law (e.g. by a production order or other notice).
Releases under the Privacy Act can be for various reasons which include to “avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law by any public sector agency” or “for the conduct of proceedings before any court or tribunal”.
Does Trade Me need members’ permission to release information?
How safe is member data?
Very safe! We follow industry best practice methods in keeping data safe. However, we are paranoid and constantly try to work out ways to make it safer.
How often will this report be released?
We’ll aim to publish this data annually.