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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Customer contact: Outdoor calls: Confidentiality breaches

The broad guidelines about confidentiality are set out at DMBM510200 onwards. By following one or two simple behavioural rules you should be able to avoid breaches of confidentiality.

For example, before telling your customer the reason for the call you should try to make sure that the discussion takes place in private and cannot be heard by an unauthorised person.

If you are not invited into a customer’s premises and you think that confidentiality might be breached because, for example:

  • there is a possibility of neighbours hearing the conversation
  • you are in busy shop or reception area

ask if you can come in to discuss the matter in private or in a quiet area away from the customer’s clients. In certain exceptional circumstances it may be more appropriate to arrange to see your customer at another place and/or time.

If you are unable to persuade your customer to cooperate:

  • conduct the call on the doorstep or in the shop/reception area
  • keep your voice reasonably low to avoid the discussion being overheard
  • make sure that official papers are not read by any other person other than yourself.

Another area for potential breaches of confidentiality is where you call at private residences to discuss business with individual husband or wife occupants. Remember that from April 1990 husbands and wives have been treated separately for tax purposes. Each is entitled to privacy in discussion of their affairs and you should be careful to maintain confidentiality.