When we give you advice over the phone, by email or letter, in an online chat, or an online webform, we collect your personal information - although you can ask us not to record it.
The consumer service collects your information without asking for your permission first. We’re able to do this under a legal basis called 'public task'. This means it lets us carry out a task which is in the public interest or part of our official functions, and which has a clear basis in law. Our role in advising consumers is set out in the law.
What information we ask for
We'll only ask for information that's relevant to your problem. Depending on what you want help with, this might include:
- your name and contact details - so we can keep in touch with you about your case
- details about services you get that are causing you problems - like energy or post
- details of items or services you've bought and traders you've dealt with
If you don't want to give us certain information, you don't have to. For example, if you want to stay anonymous we'll only record information about your problem and make sure you're not identified.
We might have to ask you for sensitive details about yourself so we can help with your problem. This includes your:
- health conditions
- ethnic origin
- trade union membership
- sexual orientation
We’re allowed to collect sensitive information because we have a legal duty to give people consumer advice - the law calls this a ‘statutory and government purpose’. This means we can collect the information because we have a legal basis to do it. The legal basis is called ‘substantial public interest’.
If you don’t want us to keep your sensitive details, you can ask to remain anonymous. We’ll still keep a record of your problem, but we won’t keep any information that could be used to identify you - for example your name or address.
How we use your information
The main reason we ask for your information is to help solve your problem.
We only access your information for other reasons if we really need to - for example:
- for training and quality purposes
- to investigate complaints
- to get feedback from you about our services
- to help us improve our services
All advisers and staff accessing data have had data protection training to make sure your information is handled sensitively and securely.
Sharing your information with other organisations
We share your records with our trusted partners to help their work to protect consumers. Depending on what your problem is, we might share your information with:
- Ofgem - the regulator for gas and electricity
- Ofcom - the regulator for the broadcasting, telecoms and postal industry
- the Financial Conduct Authority - the regulator for financial and banking services
- the Competition and Markets Authority
- Trading Standards
The consumer service shares your information with trusted partners without asking for your permission first. We’re able to do this under a legal basis called 'public task' - this is because our role in advising consumers is set out in the law.
If you don't want your information shared in this way, tell the adviser you speak to on the phone or make it clear in your online advice request form.
You can ask us to anonymise your records - this means you can't be identified.
We will only share information about your issue with a local Citizens Advice office if you gave the consumer service permission to do so.
Organisations we share your data with must store and use your data in line with data protection law. They'll have their own privacy policies for how they handle your information and keep it safe.
Your information is sent securely to our partners via a Secure Post Office system provided by US firm Datamotion.
If you contact us about an energy or post issue
We might share your information with the Energy Ombudsman if we think they can help you with more specialist advice. We might also refer you to the Extra Help Unit - this is run by Citizens Advice Scotland. We’ll only do this with your consent and if we think it will help. You can find out more about the Extra Help Unit.
We might ask if we can share your information with energy suppliers or post companies. We’ll only do this with your consent and if we think it might help you.
Monitoring our quality of service
We'll share your contact details with our trusted research partner, Marketing Means, so they can contact you for the purpose of giving feedback on your experience with us.
Where we store your information and for how long
Your information is stored securely on our systems.
Our case management systems are hosted within the European Economic Area (EEA) and wherever possible, the UK.
We keep your information for 6 years and then anonymise it - this means you can't be identified from it.
Your information might also be stored in other ways, depending on how we communicate with you.
If you used email or an online webform
Emails between you and consumer service staff are stored within the local Citizens Advice office email system where the adviser is based. The local Citizens Advice should have their own policy for how they keep these emails secure. Emails are kept for 6 months and then deleted.
Requests for advice via the online webform are stored on a secure mail system run by Datamotion for 30 days.
If you used online chat
Chats between you and consumer service staff are recorded and stored securely by our trusted partner, LivePerson. Chat transcripts are kept for 13 months and then deleted.
LivePerson store their data securely within the European Economic Area (EEA) in line with data protection law.
If you contacted us by phone
If you contact the consumer service helpline, calls are recorded and stored securely by our trusted partner, KCOM. Recordings are kept for 6 months and then deleted.
KCOM store their data securely within the European Economic Area (EEA) in line with data protection law.
Contact us about your information
You can contact us at any time and ask us:
- what information we've stored about you
- to change or update your details
- to delete your information
Send us a message at Operations@citizensadvice.org.uk.
If we’ve shared your information with another organisation, you might need to contact them to check how they store your data.