Customer sues Equity Bank for data breach dispute

Equity Bank branch on Muindi Mbingu Street in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

An Equity Bank customer has sued the lender for breach of data privacy after his confidential banking information was allegedly shared with a third party.

The customer identified as Mwangi W. has sued the lender through Thabiti Capital Ltd before the Environment and Land court in Nairobi, claiming that the information was shared with the Mombasa county commissioner, who is a stranger to him.

Justice Lucy Mbugua allowed the customer to advertise the case, inviting any customer who has suffered a data breach, to join the case in a US-style class action suit.

“That the honourable court be pleased to issue orders allowing the petitioner to advertise this application and the petition in a daily newspaper of national circulation to enable any affected or interested parties whose confidential banking information has been unlawfully shared with third parties by the first respondent, to be joined in the petition since the petition is of great public interest,” the applicant said in the petition.

The court said the application and the petition should be advertised as prayed and directed the matter to appear before Justice Edward Wabwoto on June 8, for further directions.

Other than the data breach, Mr Mwangi wants the court to issue temporary orders restraining the lender from selling his land identified as L.R. No. MN/1/5708, pending the determination of the case.

He has named the office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) and the Central Bank of Kenya as parties in the case.

He says in an affidavit that Keysian Auctioneers, sent him a letter on March 15, seeking to recover an alleged outstanding loan secured using the title deed for the land, on instructions of the bank.

The said letter was “conspicuously and deliberately copied to the office of the county commissioner- Mombasa County.”

“The actions of the respondents to unlawfully disclose the applicant’s bank information to third parties infringes on the applicant’s right to privacy, data protection rights and the sacred duty of banks not to unlawfully disclose their customers’ information without authority,” Mwangi says in an affidavit.

The petition says the company’s employees manning the property have been receiving persons who have been illegally invading the property, interfering with their privacy and posing a serious security risk.

It is alleged that the said visitors indicate that they have been getting the firm’s information that he is a defaulter from the county commissioner, Mombasa County.

“The applicant’s reputation has been grossly damaged by the respondent’s actions and has suffered monumental loss in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the society and this has and will affect the applicant’s social and economic standing in the unforeseeable future,” he said.

He further says his firm’s economic rights have been greatly damaged by the actions as it has been unable to secure business and financing because of the unlawful disclosure.

“In context, this amounts to deliberate financial sabotage of the applicant as this has scared customers and other potential financiers who are refusing to lend the applicant on account that it has gone broke and lacks the financial capacity to service loans,” he said.

The court directed him to serve the application and the petition on all the respondents and interested parties.

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